Provincial restart plan, with four-step plan starting June 15, has everyone excited

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Softball B.C. executive director Rick Benson guessed there might be some minor associations in his sport having games Tuesday night, wasting little time after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry had announced in the afternoon that was permitted as a part of B.C.’s restart plan.

Youth sports in this province has been in practice-only mode, with a focus on social-distancing drills, since early December due to restrictions brought in to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Knowing our members, someone will plan a game for tonight,” Benson explained.

“We are very excited about the restart plan. This gives us an opportunity to provide an experience for our softball communities. It’s a great day for B.C.”

Baseball B.C. executive director David Laing had a similar sentiment. The restart press conference was over by 2:20 p.m. on Tuesday, and Baseball B.C. was tweeting at 3:11 p.m. about an immediate return to in-club game play.

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“It’s everything for our sport and our participants,” Laing said. “The stories that I’m having shared with me, about how hard working the kids have been and how much they’re improving, are a positive of this development phase, but we’re also losing interest from kids who haven’t played a game in a year.

“Today is huge for our sport and, dare I say, all sports in this province.”

Government agency viaSport has led the return to play throughout the pandemic. Ninu Gill, the director of communications and engagement, reiterated Tuesday that this first phase involves games within your “home club,” or games between two teams from the same association.  These games are to have no spectators, according to the plan announced Tuesday.

That is still a step forward for minor sport.

“It’s great news,” Vancouver United FC executive director Gregor Young said of Tuesday’s announcement. “Clubs need this right now, so the timing is great.”

Tuesday’s plan had four steps. Starting June 15, the goal is to have indoor team games for all ages and up to 50 spectators for outdoor sports. Starting July 1, the goal is to have limited spectators for indoor sports. Starting Sept. 7, the goal is to have “increased indoor and outdoor spectators,” and a “return of normal sport competitions.”

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That would affect both the Vancouver Whitecaps, who started up their Major League Soccer season April 6 and are currently based out of Sandy, Utah, and the B.C. Lions, who plan to begin their Canadian Football League season on Aug. 5.

Premier John Horgan was asked if the Whitecaps and Lions could be included in the July 1 phase as opposed to the Sept. 7 one and have fans at B.C. Place Stadium. Undoubtedly focusing on the Lions,Horgan said, “I’m optimistic if they can push the season further into August, we might be in a better place.”

Lions president Rick LeLacheur released a statement that read: “As a football club, we are very encouraged by both today’s announcements and the fact case numbers in British Columbia continue to decline. As we’ve stated all along, our goal is to host as many fans as we can beginning with our home opener. We will continue to monitor developments over the next several weeks and work with provincial health officials with the goal of welcoming back our great fans to B.C. Place in the safest manner possible.”

SEwen@postmedia.com

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