Members of the Battle Creek Table Tennis Club have missed their Monday night sessions at Full Blast for the past six months.
© Elena Durnbaugh
Members of the Battle Creek Table Tennis Club play at Full Blast Recreation Center on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020.
“I missed it quite a bit, not just playing, but the camaraderie,” said Craig Kenney, a longtime member of the group.
Monday night was the group’s third time back together since the pandemic began in March, and the club was grateful to have the space to gather at Full Blast, which is back open after months of being closed due to COVID-19.
“This is a godsend,” said Mark E. Crum, who helps organize the club.
Though recreational programming is still on hold and the future is uncertain, the city is committed to providing residents with the space to play safely in Battle Creek.
The Recreation Department has taken a big financial hit this year due to the pandemic. Closed facilities and canceled programs meant recreation revenue fell by 45% during the months of July and August compared to the previous year fiscal year, according to city Finance Director Lina Morrison, and with COVID-19 cases on the rise again, programming may not return to what it was before anytime soon.
The annual revenue of the recreation department was $2,476,902, according to the city’s 2020 amended budget. Although the department does bring in some money through grants and donations, revenue is the primary source of income for the department.
“Our business model is built around the idea of gathering people, usually in close contact, for fun, and that doesn’t work well in a pandemic environment,” Assistant City Manager Ted Dearing said.
Spring baseball leagues, summer youth camps and fall flag football were all canceled this year due to health and safety requirements.
During the summer, the city used Full Blast as a temporary homeless shelter to allow more space for people to social distance. Although that was another source of lost revenue, Dearing said it was an essential role for the city to fill in a pandemic.
Now, even with facilities open again, recreation looks different.
“Regular recreation department services are severely limited, due to their nature and the guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Dearing said.
With continued uncertainty around COVID-19, programming remains one of the biggest challenges, Dearing said. There aren’t any specific plans for programming for the rest of the year, and three recreation department employees are still on furlough out of a total of five.
“We may have to change the way we think about how we deliver services,” Dearing said. “We’re going to try to offer as much programming as we can, but we recognize going forward it’s going to have to be financially feasible.”
For the time being, youth programs through the department and at the Bailey Park complex are still on hold.
Despite limitations, people have been eager to get back to the city’s facilities, Recreation Director Duska Brumm said.