Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion
Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Shayne Monahan controls the puck early in the third period as 1,113 fans watch Friday, March 24, 2017, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Shayne Monahan controls the puck early in the third period as 1,113 fans watch Friday, March 24, 2017, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Brown Bears to return after council loosens sports center mitigation

The resolution increases the number of spectators allowed at events to 750

The Kenai River Brown Bears will resume games at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in March following a vote in favor of looser COVID mitigation protocols by the Soldotna City Council at their Wednesday night meeting.

The Brown Bears, who have been playing exclusively in the Lower 48 due to COVID-related travel restrictions, wanted to return to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex beginning March 26 for five weekend games.

Brown Bears Manager Chris Hedlund requested that the city modify the COVID mitigation protocols currently in place at the sports complex, including that the number of spectators allowed at games be increased from 250 to a minimum of 750 and that the Brown Bears be allowed to operate a beer garden during games.

In a letter to Soldotna Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael, Hedlund outlined the steps the team has taken to comply with North American Hockey League COVID-19 guidelines and what factors they have been monitoring in looking to return to Soldotna.

Specifically, Hedlund said that other arenas the team has played at have implemented social distancing, face mask mandates, using “pods” to keep households together and plans to clean high-touch spots. Additionally, Hedlund wrote, the team adheres to NAHL waivers, testing guidelines, player responsibilities and symptom-based monitoring strategies, among other things.

This is all on top of day-to-day precautions the team takes, like washing socks and jerseys after each ice event, daily temperature checks, spacing on bus rides, spacing in locker rooms and limiting hotel rooms to two players each.

The resolution increases the number of spectators allowed at events to 750 if the central peninsula’s average daily COVID-19 case rate remains at or below 10 cases per 100,000 population over a 14-day period. If the 14-day case rate goes above 10, the spectator limit would drop back to 250. If the 14-day case rate is reduced to less than three, the number of spectators allowed can be increased at the discretion of the Parks and Recreation director and administration.

The resolution will also require everyone in the building to wear masks, including coaches, at all times, except for athletes and officials when on the ice, which includes penalty and team benches. People eating or drinking will not be required to wear masks.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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