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Update on local sports organizations, tournaments amid Interior Health restrictions confusion

An Interior Health Authority restrictions flip-flop came after much angst and confusion was expressed from athletes and organizations across the region, including in Kamloops. Kamloops council received an email on Aug.
The Big-O Memorial Slo-Pitch tournament
Several Slo-Pitch tournaments in Kamloops were jeopardized by Interior Health restrictions. Some have been cancelled, while others survived.

An Interior Health Authority restrictions flip-flop came after much angst and confusion was expressed from athletes and organizations across the region, including in Kamloops.

Kamloops council received an email on Aug. 26 from Interior Health that said team sports are permitted under the health authority’s gathering and events order. An Aug. 23 order from IH banned team sports competition.

“We have changed our direction on team sports,” the email said.

ViaSport, the B.C. government’s delivery agency for sport, was among governing bodies that influenced IH to reverse its decision on competition, according to multiple sources.

Among updated restrictions, which were published on the IH website on Aug. 26: Game play is allowed at all levels, maximum gathering sizes are 100 and 50 outdoors and indoors respectively, and spectator capacity is limited to 100 outdoors and 50 indoors.

"Sports like martial arts, gymnastics, dance classes and cheerleading can take place and must meet the indoor capacity of 50 people," Interior Health wrote in an email to KTW on Wednesday, Sept. 1.

"Events like cycling or running races cannot exceed the event capacity of 100 people."

Kamloops Coun. Mike O’Reilly is among those who had problems with the Aug. 23 restrictions.

“To me, blanket-wide restrictions like that were acceptable a year-and-a-half ago because we didn’t have time to figure out specific plans,” O’Reilly said.

“At this point, we should be able to make more surgical decisions and allow things that can happen in specific areas. I’m equally as frustrated as the next person. Parents are getting extremely frustrated and I believe they should be.”

On Monday, Aug. 30, B.C. reported 1,853 new cases of COVID-19 and seven further deaths over the weekend, three of which occurred in the Interior Health region.

Interior Health also accounted for the largest portion of new cases, with 707.

Sean Smith, business operations and events supervisor for the City of Kamloops, said organizers of about 11 tournaments — worth about $1.5 million to $2 million in spending in the city — slated to be held in Kamloops in September or October were considering cancellation or postponement due to recent restrictions.

The biggest of them all, the NSA Canada Slo-Pitch Co-Ed World Series, which was to bring more than 160 teams to the city, is among five tournaments (Kamloops Senior Slo-pitch, BC Hydro Slo-Pitch, Kamloops Beach Volleyball, Pickleball Connect) that have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled.

An NSA representative told KTW that Kamloops will remain home to the Co-Ed World Series for the foreseeable future.

“The City of Kamloops has treated us like gold,” the representative said. “Just an incredible relationship. We’re not going anywhere.”

Of the other six tournaments/events that were in jeopardy, Kamloops Ladies Slo-Pitch, Westsyde Slo-Pitch, October-Fest Slo-Pitch and Highland Dance are scheduled to go ahead, Big O Memorial Slo-Pitch is tentatively confirmed to take place and BC Rugby Women’s 7s status is unconfirmed, according to an email from the city.

Sporting groups such as the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers, TRU WolfPack and BC Football Conference’s Kamloops Broncos were thrown for a loop when the no-competition restriction was put into place, as each have home contests slated for September.

It is unclear if the Blazers’ exhibition games this month will go ahead. The WolfPack Canada West home openers on Sept. 10 are scheduled to take place, but spectators are not permitted.

The Broncos were scheduled to play one game in August and one game in September at Hillside Stadium, but cannot toil in the Interior Health region under current gathering-size limitations.

Those tilts have yet to be rescheduled. If they are to be played in September, they cannot under current restrictions be contested in the IH region. Neutral sites are being considered.

The Valley Huskers are scheduled to host the Broncos in Chilliwack on Sept. 11.

The Blazers’ regular season home opener is scheduled for Oct. 9.

IH restrictions, which will be reviewed near the end of September, will have to loosen or updated directives from the province must be unveiled if spectators are to be allowed into Sandman Centre.

“We were expecting 100 per cent capacity,” WHL commissioner Robison told KTW of WHL regular season action, which gets underway on Oct. 1.

“Obviously, we require 100 per cent capacity in order for our franchises to continue operating. It’s been a very difficult period of time working through last season, a shortened season, but without spectators.”

Group chats featuring those involved in recreational sports leagues have been rife with confusion since gathering-size limitations were introduced and the competition flip-flop was complete.

Contact local organizations to determine the latest on those leagues.