Demand for Vancouver outdoor pools crashes online booking system

A rush of demand for lap swimming at Vancouver’s outdoor pools caused the park board’s inaugural online booking system to crash Sunday morning.

The city’s three biggest outdoor pools, Kitsilano, Second Beach and New Brighton, open for the season Monday morning. Under new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, all swimmers need to book a time slot so staff can limit the number of people at the pools and clean in between visits. 

Online bookings for the following day start at 9:30 a.m. the day before. The online booking system crashed for about 45 minutes shortly after it went live, and all the lap swimming spots at Kitsilano and Second Beach pools were booked well before noon. 

“Obviously people have been waiting eagerly to get back into the water and start swimming again,” said Peter Fox, the park board’s supervisor of aquatic services. 

Fox says each lap swimming session will have a limited number of drop-in spots available as well. Lap swimming at Kitsilano pool is limited to three 45-minute slots in the mornings and one 25-minute slot in the evenings to give swimmers more space. 

The city’s indoor pools closed in March because of the pandemic, and outdoor pools normally open over the May long weekend.

Fox said the next few days will likely be a learning process for the park board and swimmers alike as everyone learns to deal with the new system. 

“It’s really about having patience,” he said. “It’s new to all of us. It’s going to evolve.”

Swimmers who were able to book a spot can expect more changes once they arrive.

Change rooms will be closed, and there will be pods painted on the ground that will each accommodate up to two people. After each 45-minute session, the pools will close for 30 minutes as staff clean and disinfect high touch-point spots like railings.

Maple Grove Pool in Marpole is scheduled to welcome swimmers soon as well. It’s scheduled to open on July 20.

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