WILLMAR — The city of Willmar is practically going back to square one in its fight against the coronavirus. Starting Nov. 23, the Willmar City Offices, Auditorium and Community Center will be closed to the public and any public activities or events are being either canceled or put on hold. The Willmar Civic Center will be closing its doors to the public on Nov. 28, putting a halt to a young hockey season.

"We had a lot of rec programming going on out there," said Rob Baumgarn, Willmar Parks and Recreation director. "These are just going to have to be on hold again."

The Willmar City Council, at Monday's council meeting, approved a motion requesting city administration strongly consider shutting city facilities to the public. As of Wednesday, Kandiyohi County had 680 active cases of the disease. Of the nearly 3,000 total cases the county has confirmed this year, approximately 58 percent have come from Willmar. The building closures are the city's way of trying to help get the pandemic under some sort of control.

Rob Baumgarn, Willmar Parks and Recreation director. (Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo)
Rob Baumgarn, Willmar Parks and Recreation director. (Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo)
"This is what the city is doing to flatten the curve," Baumgarn said.

Any new restrictions from the state might also impact what the city can and can't do or offer going forward.

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"That puts us in a standstill too," Baumgarn said.

Since the council's decision Monday night, Baumgarn has been reaching out to the users of the Civic Center, which include the Willmar WarHawks hockey team, Willmar Public Schools, Diamond Edge Figure Skating Club and Glacial Ridge Curling Club. The curlers and skating club will be putting their programs on hold, Baumgarn said, and the owner of the WarHawks is also aware of the upcoming shutdown.

"It is just a juggling act right now," Baumgarn said.

Any activities that use the Auditorium will also be canceled for the foreseeable future, as will events and programming at the Community Center. Senior Dining users will still be able to pick up lunch at the center, Baumgarn said.

At the City Offices, individuals who need to meet with a city employee in person will have to set up an appointment with that department. There is also a drop box on the south side of the city offices building for the public to use to drop off paperwork. More information, including city phone numbers, can be found on the city's website at willmarmn.gov.

When the city will reopen will depend on a number of factors, including case rates and state regulations. Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin had recommended buildings remain closed through January.

"We are going to take our guidance from the council," Baumgarn said.

While Baumgarn understands why the council and administration made the decision they did, that doesn't mean he, his staff and the users of the facilities are not disappointed. He said his job is to offer kids and adults recreational opportunities and the virus has definitely made that job challenging this year.

"It hurts; that is our job. We want kids out and about doing activities," Baumgarn said. "Adults need to play too."