By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

After sitting dormant for more than three months amid COVID-19 precautions, the Whitewater Aquatic and Fitness Center is expected to reopen.

But it will not be business as usual.

The center, 580 S. Elizabeth St., will resume operations July 1.

In the first phase of reopening, members will have the opportunity to use the lap pool and fitness center. Plans also call for holding outdoor cycling classes.

Several areas of the facility will remain closed off to visitors for the foreseeable future, including the locker rooms. Enhanced disinfecting and other protocols also are planned, including rearranging some of the furniture and fixtures within the facility to encourage social distancing.

“We want to use an abundance of caution in any forward movement,” City Manager Cameron Clapper said.

Talk of reopening the center surfaced at a Common Council meeting June 16. The city operates the facility through a joint agreement with the Whitewater Unified School District.

Clapper said he and other municipal staffers have received feedback from residents interested in using the center.

“We know and have heard from a select group in the community,” Clapper said. “It’s not necessarily a broad group.”

Eric Boettcher, director of parks and recreation with the city, also weighed in on the interest his department has received from residents who would like to see the facility resume operations.

“J-Hawks Swim Club, the high school swim team and other community members have requested that the lap pool be opened for lap swim immediately,’ Boettcher said. “There has been much discussion as to how and when to open safely, and the financial impact that opening will have during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

While there was nothing precluding the center’s reopening prior to July 1, Clapper in his recommendation said he believed it would be prudent to hold off on relaunching the amenity to next week in a sign of solidarity with the other governing party operating it.

As with all districts across Wisconsin, all of Whitewater Unified’s schools remain shut down for all in-person activities through June 30.

While he expressed concerns about the long-term ramifications of COVID-19 — including a possible “second wave” of spiking cases linked to the virus — Council President Lynn Binnie said he was supportive of the center reopening at this time since documented cases, locally, are not at the forefront in this snapshot in time.

With more than a quarter of the year already claiming use of the facility, Binnie said he believed multiple age groups would likely find news of the center’s reopening a welcome development.

“(Seniors) may be anxious to have something to do,” Binnie said, prefacing his remarks by pointing out the Starin Park Senior Center has also been closed throughout the pandemic.

On the other end of the age spectrum, Binnie said, “Young families haven’t had a lot to do either.”

The council at its most recent meeting gave a favorable recommendation to the July 1 reopening plan. The city’s Parks and Recreation Board, which takes up matters related to the center, gave the official go-ahead when it met after the council meeting.

 

 
 

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