Baseball BC president Chris Balison stopped by McArthur Island on Wednesday (May 26) to catch a glimpse of return-to-play exuberance.
For the first time in nearly two years, Kamloops Minor Baseball Association house league teams are playing games, with the pandemic’s grip loosening across the province.
“The sheer joy and excitement, it was unbelievable,” said Balison, the KMBA past-president who spoke for the organization on Thursday. “It’s exactly what’s meant to occur at McArthur Island. They’ve been waiting a long time.”
Step 1 of B.C.‘s restart plan began on May 25 and allows for local outdoor games and practices for both adult and youth teams. Indoor low intensity group exercise is allowed, with limited capacity.
“Contact play, that’s great, we can start getting into games,” said Ciaran McMahon, technical director for the Kamloops Youth Soccer Association. “It’s starting to look like a normal season.”
The general tone from local sports organizations contacted on Thursday was positive, but confusion, which has come to be expected during COVID-19 transitional stages, is accompanying Step 1.
Both the KMBA and KYSA are waiting for clarification on the definition of “local,” as the province’s restart plan can be interpreted to allow for more leeway than what is currently sanctioned under viaSport guidelines, which is games between teams from the same association.
ViaSport is the government agency that has been establishing return-to-play protocol throughout the pandemic.
“Within KYSA, we haven’t had updates from viaSport or BC Soccer,” McMahon said. “It’s mildly frustrating, but they’re not getting heads up from the provincial government. We have to define what local is within your zone.”
For now, the KYSA’s community-program teams can play each other. Select teams are limited to intrasquad matches, unable to travel to Kelowna, Penticton, Salmon Arm or Vernon.
The KYSA’s current season wraps up at the end of June.
“We want to offer more,” McMahon said. “Three or four weeks of games beats one or two weeks. We’re hoping for clarification sooner than later.”
KMBA rep teams are also awaiting clarification.
“Until viaSport tells us exactly what we can do in terms of travel for sport, we’re in a holding pattern,” Balison said, noting the current KMBA season wraps up near the end of June.
“Clearly, these kids see everyone else playing on the fields and want to play themselves. These are athletes that play at the highest level for their age and they’re itching to play, anxiously waiting.”
At the university sports level, TRU WolfPack athletics director Curtis Atkinson is thrilled with the return-to-play timeline.
Canada West recently established schedules and pushed back starting dates. Soccer season, traditionally the first TRU team-sport varsity campaign to begin, was pushed back to September from August.
The B.C. restart plan calls for a return to normal sport competitions on Sept. 7 at the earliest, with an updated COVID-19 safety plan in place.
“It was as good of news as we hoped for,” Atkinson said. “It lines up perfectly with our season.”
Canada West schedules for WolfPack teams in 2021-2022 will not feature out-of-province play during the regular season.
Fewer games will be on the Canada West schedule than in traditional years, both as a cost-cutting measure and to allow for rescheduled contests in off-weeks.
On the professional sports front, Sean Smith, business operations and events supervisor for the City of Kamloops, said the B.C. Lions have confirmed they expect to be in the Tournament Capital in July for training camp.
Farhan Lalji of TSN reported on Wednesday the CFL is aiming to open training camps on July 10.
Smith said the Lions’ players required to quarantine prior to camp are likely to begin arriving in Kamloops on July 1.
THE SPORTS PLAN
Below are the sports-and-excercise timelines outlined in the B.C. restart plan:
Step 1: Starting May 25
Indoor low intensity group exercise allowed with limited capacity
Outdoor games and practices for both adults and youth group/team sports allowed
No spectators at any indoor or outdoor sport activities
Step 2: Earliest start date June 15
Indoor high intensity group exercise allowed with reduced capacity
Indoor games and practices for both adults and youth group/team sports allowed
No spectators at any indoor sport activities
Outdoor spectators up to 50 allowed
Step 3: Earliest start date July 1
All indoor fitness classes allowed, usual capacity
Limited indoor spectators allowed
Step 4: Earliest start date Sept. 7
Return to normal sport competitions with an updated COVID-19 Safety Plan in place
Increased outdoor and indoor spectators