Campus & Community Recreation Reflects on 1-Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the 1-year mark approaches, Campus & Community Recreation reflects on the challenges we faced and how we’ve adapted to deliver physical activity and wellness resources for students and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic

Campus & Community Recreation Reflects on 1-Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Jen Stevenson

Ready to get active? So are Campus & Community Recreation’s Facility Services staff! These team members (from left: Christine Legault, Dean Budynski, Mark Ennik, and Hania Kura) help keep our recreation facilities safe and ensure every student and community member has a great experience visiting us!

Uncertainty, fear, anxiety, change…'corona-coaster'. These are a few words that come to the mind of a Campus & Community Recreation (CCR) staff member when asked to describe what the past year of navigating COVID-19 has bestowed. CCR endured multiple pandemic-induced challenges: learning new technology to transition the delivery of recreation programs and services online; constantly adapting to ever-evolving government health protocols—implementing several new campus safety measures and contact tracing procedures; and mobilizing resources to facilitate the total closure and re-opening of all campus sport and recreation facilities—twice.

And yet, upon reflection, CCR staff have realized just how much has been accomplished this past year, and that it is because of these challenges that we have been able to adapt, pivot, evolve and succeed together as a team—more so than ever before.

Shut Down Phase #1

On March 13, 2020, the suspension of all campus activities was announced, due to a then-elusive virus, and all sport and recreation facilities abruptly closed. In the following days, the government announced a state of public health emergency, and soon after it started to resonate that working remotely, coping with new stressors of living, working, and learning from home with family and spouses 24/7, and getting acquainted to a meeting app called Zoom, might soon become the 'new normal'.

As experts at understanding the benefit and impact physical activity has on mental health and well-being, CCR realized it was of utmost importance to continue offering recreation programs and services to our students, staff, and community members in the only other form possible aside from in-person—online. The team was compelled to return to CCR's Vision statement: to inspire and empower exceptional life experiences through recreation, sport, and wellness, and asked "Why should this change during a pandemic?".

In response to this question, CCR overcame several technological learning curves and throughout the Spring and Summer of 2020, developed the following resources for the University of Alberta and surrounding community:

During this time, CCR also coordinated with Alberta Health Services (AHS) to offer the Butterdome Pavilion as a COVID-19 secondary assessment site.

Learning new, healthy, outdoor activities and building confidence through the leadership of a great running coach: Campus & Community Recreation’s Associate Director, Christine Legault! Watch the Learn to Run series on our YouTube or IGTV channel.

Devon Kippen instructs a Virtual Recreation Term Pass fitness class live via Zoom. Congratulations to all Campus & Community Recreation virtual instructors and support staff for recently exceeding over 500 Virtual Recreation Term Pass registrants!

Re-opening Phase #1

In late Summer 2020, the Alberta Government health restrictions eased (although masks, physical distancing, and reduced capacity became the norm), and sport and recreation facilities were able to re-open. CCR got to work preparing all sport and recreation buildings on North and South Campus for the re-opening, modifying service desks, studios, gyms, and locker rooms with protective barriers, ensuring safety signage was in place, equipping staff with PPE and safety training, and developing new operating procedures to keep our members safe.

For the first time, pre-registered drop-in procedures were implemented to ensure contact tracing of all patrons using the facilities and adherence to space restrictions. North Campus pools were the first to re-open, welcoming pre-registered lane swim, aquafit, private lessons, and combined aquatics & climbing youth camps at reduced capacity. The Wilson Climbing Centre, Hanson Fitness and Lifestyle Centre, and Saville Community Sports Centre Fitness areas quickly followed suit. The Van Vliet Complex also started offering registered drop-in activities including: running track, tennis, basketball, badminton, pickleball and skating. Facility rentals also became available once again for internal and external bookings. CCR remained determined to re-open to eagerly awaiting members—even after several unfortunately timed floods caused by multiple summer storms.

Preparation is the key! Ensuring the wall is clean, the ropes are safe, the holds are sanitized—these are just some of many new safety protocols staff at the Wilson Climbing Centre put in place in summer 2020 to ensure clients and youth camp participants enjoy their climbing experience in a safe environment.

Shut Down Phase #2

By Fall 2020, CCR facilities welcomed back several small group in-person fitness, dance, martial arts, aquatics, climbing, tennis, curling, and youth Sportball programs—only to be again thwarted by a second wave of COVID-19 resulting in increased government health restrictions in late Fall/early Winter.

A state of public health emergency was declared, shutting down all sport and recreation facilities for the second time. CCR worked with AHS to convert the Butterdome Pavilion into a temporary field hospital to support AHS in providing effective health care during the pandemic. Fortunately, the field hospital has not been activated to date. CCR's virtual programming and online fitness resources became essential physical activity and wellness resources for our students and community members.

In response to shutdown #2, CCR continued to develop even more ways to continue offering recreation programs, services, and resources and offered support to U of A students free of charge via Virtual Exam Week fitness and dance classes. As well, the introduction of online gaming opportunities and eSports leagues became a fan favourite!

Re-opening Phase #2 - January-March 2021 (Present):

With the new year underway, many of us celebrated a long-overdue farewell to 2020. As Government restrictions eased, first with 1:1 personal training and facility space rentals offered and now, in March, with the cautious re-opening of low-intensity in-person programs and services, we begin to plan ahead into the future. Plans to hold CCR's first-ever virtual Job Expo and preparations to showcase online fitness classes at the first-ever virtual Humanities Congress 2021 are underway!

Now, as we find ourselves at the 1-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still dealing with all the same challenges and expect many more to come in the future, but with one crucial difference: together, as a team, we know we have changed. From an operational perspective, we have become more efficient and have demonstrated that we can pivot and respond to any obstacle that we may encounter successfully. From a personal perspective we have developed exponentially, and have become experts in not only compassion, patience, and empathy for our fellow teammates, but, above all, have excelled at resiliency. As a team, we now know we may persevere, adapt and conquer any obstacle or challenge that comes our way in 2021, and beyond.

For more information about Campus & Community Recreations programs, services, and wellness resources please visit:

Register for the Virtual Recreation Term Pass (Free for U of A Students)

Stay Active Stay Well - Web Page Portal

Online Virtual Recreation and Services

Follow CCR's social media channels for weekly wellness resources 


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