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Slow pickup of Kids On The Go

RMOW promises business as usual for recreation programs, youth centre

The Resort Municipality of Whistler's recreation arm will be fully flexed during the 2010 Olympics, whether the community takes advantage or not.

"Here at Meadow Park Sport Centre everything will be running as usual," said Keith Tindle, manager of facilities. "It's business as usual - the swimming pool hours are all the same, the fitness centre hours and arena hours are the same, and pretty much all the programs in those areas will be running like they would in any other February. There could be some cancellations for ice time, but nobody has cancelled anything yet and as far as we know all of the programs are still running, minor hockey is still running, the skating club is running, the recreational programs are still running."

The biggest impact will be traffic-related, said Tindle, with limited parking available in Creekside and the village, a busy highway and personal vehicles discouraged. The number of buses on the road will increase significantly and people will still be able to get to Meadow Park taking transit - but that's something Tindle acknowledged could be tough while carrying full goalie gear.

There are no plans to use the parking lot at Meadow Park so that remains an option, providing Meadow Park users can avoid peak travel times.

Whistler is also in contact with organizations that rent municipal facilities on a regular basis to find out what their intentions are for the Games.

There's also the issue of the municipality's youth programs. The Kids On the Go program will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. when the school is closed for spring break, with space for up to 45 kids - or possibly more if the demand is high. However, at press time just four kids were enrolled in that program, making it difficult to book staff.

"When kids are out of school we run a day program, that's part of our licensing program for when school is not in session," explained Christine Kenny, program services supervisor. The program will run as usual after school hours for the first week of the Games, and will shift to daily operation from Feb. 22 to Feb. 26, the second week of the Olympics.

Kenny says parents should register their kids sooner than later to guarantee that there will be enough staff to cover the demand.

"If we only have 24 kids registered then we would only have four staff available during that time to work, and then the numbers would be limited by how many staff we have," said Kenny.

Kenny said most parents don't know what their own schedules will be like during the Games, but she expects to see a lot of demand by mid-January, when people have a better idea.

"I'm preparing myself for Jan. 15 when parents call me and say they need to get their kids in to the program," she said. "Of course I'll do what I can to accommodate everybody with whatever staff is available but it's not ideal looking for staff that late in the game," she said.

"We're getting the word out for parents to register early, so we'll know what the demand and need is."

Kenny is also responsible for finding a space for the youth centre in Millennium Place, which is booked out for the Games and will be occupied for three months as an unaccredited media centre. There are several options available, but Kenny says it's important to find a location in the village.

"We have some of our own space options outside of the village, which is basically Option D," she said. "We want to have a place they can access where they are, and chances are they're going to want to be in the village where the action is. They need a place they can go to get warmed up, or if they get into trouble or need a place to meet up. A couple of couches and a television is all they need, but we need to have something in place in the village to keep the youth in our community safe during this period."

A few ideas are already being considered in central locations, and Kenny hopes to announce a replacement youth centre soon.