Decatur Parks and Recreation indoor and outdoor recreation facilities, venues and parks will return to a normal schedule today after over a year of COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns, city officials said.
Nicole Belcher, Parks and Recreation marketing director, said Monday that the Aquadome, Fort Decatur and T.C. Almon will open at 8 a.m. today and operate under Gov. Kay Ivey’s “Safer Apart” order.
“We know there’s no longer a mask mandate, but we will strongly urge people to wear masks and social distance,” Belcher said. “Now the executive order is about personal responsibility.”
Decatur Youth Services Sports Manager Rico Pickett said Carrie Matthews Recreation Center will not reopen because the center is slated for a complete renovation. Work is expected to start soon and could last about 18 months.
Mayor Tab Bowling said he hopes people will come back with the reopening of the recreation centers on normal schedules. While the schedules will return to pre-pandemic levels, they will still be closed on weekends and have the limited hours put in place before Bowling took office. Previous administrations reduced hours in 2010 and again in 2013 as part of budget cuts.
"We discussed opening fully, as we were before I took office," Bowling said. "In making this call, we want to see what our attendance looks like. We might look at extending hours in the future."
Bowling said he believes the City Council "would support additional hours if it saw activities during the weekdays." One of the first clashes Bowling had as mayor was in 2017 when he tried to extend the centers' hours, a plan blocked by the previous council.
Some activities, like pickleball and racquetball, have been allowed at the city’s recreation centers in recent months but with limits. The return to normal means more people can use the facilities without limits, Belcher said.
For example, they will allow multiple games of a sport such as pickleball at the same time, Belcher said.
Belcher said some activities, like use of weight rooms and meeting rooms, table tennis and racquetball, and workout programs like Butts and Guts, will still require a reservation so the recreation employees can make sure they’re staffed and cleaned properly.
Some sports like table tennis and pickleball will require competitors to supply their own balls and equipment to limit the number of people who touch the equipment and potentially spread the virus, she said.
Open gymnasium times will also return. Belcher said she knows social distancing can't be maintained in basketball. Competitors will not be required to wear a mask but are urged to do so when possible, she said.
Belcher said the Parks and Recreation staff will be cleaning more frequently to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
The schedules of each recreation facility are available at www.decaturparks.com.