“Welcome back to the Y!” are some of the first words displayed on The Hill Y in Westminster’s website that features a reopening guide for the facility.
The Y, and all gyms and fitness centers around Maryland, are allowed to get back to business Friday, June 19, after being shut down for some three months because of COVID-19.
Last week, under Gov. Larry Hogan’s latest “Roadmap to Recovery” phase of relieving coronavirus pandemic-related shutdowns, indoor dining and some outdoor amusements were allowed to reopen with limited access and local approval. This week, at 5 p.m. Friday, under the same protocol, indoor fitness centers, gyms, martial arts, dance and other studio-type activities can be open with 50% capacity providing they follow other public health protective measures.
“We’ve been waiting for that,” said Mike Walters, center director at the Hill Y in Westminster. “We were elated to hear that.”
Walters said the Y Centers around the region have been making plans and preparations, from cleaning the buildings to marking them for proper social distance guidelines, to be ready for the reopening. There are 13 YMCA centers across Maryland, according to its website. Group exercise sessions and fitness floors are some of the activities expected to open first, according to the site, while pools, personal training workouts, and locker rooms might take more time before being available.
Walters said the community seems to be ready to embrace the opportunity to return.
“We’ve had some great phone calls with a lot of anxious individuals,” he said. “We know it’s going to be slow at the beginning, just being able to gain the confidence. Of course, we have some of those folks who are raring and ready to go, too. All of the safety protocols and the measures we have in place, obviously abiding by what the governor and CDC says, will help build that confidence.”
Shelly Fulton, manager of the Westminster Family Center on Longwell Avenue, said her facility won’t open until June 22, and the staff has made significant changes to take precautions for its members and guests. Some of these changes include moving the equipment 6 feet apart, bringing on more staff members to aid in temperature-taking, and screening questions for every guest, as well as adding direction signs for one-way traffic throughout the building.
”There’s a whole lot that goes into it, lots of communication with the staff regarding all the COVID-19 guidelines,” Fulton said. “We’ve had to make sure that we have a system set up so that if any equipment is touched, it will be sanitized afterwards [as well].”
Beau Bryant’s Westminster Strength & Conditioning held outdoor classes last month to keep his members happy. Now, the semi-private facility can move toward holding sessions inside Bryant’s warehouse along John St.
Bryant said his facility’s coaches and helpers are moving equipment from the parking lot he turned into modified gym space back inside Friday morning with plans to have it ready for the early evening hours.
“It’s amazing,” said Bryant, who has been running most of the operations by himself during the pandemic. “I have four kids, my wife has other commitments. With outside fitness, it up-heaved our schedule ... it’s just going to be nice to go back to my old work schedule. Get our coaches back in there making money, too. It’s just going to feel ... almost normal again.”
Health Unlimited Family Fitness Center in Mount Airy is slated to open June 23 for regular workouts, according to the facility’s automated voicemail message system. The gym will host an open house June 22 for guests to tour the facility and see what the staff has changed to keep guests safe and healthy.
Guests will be able to purchase memberships during the open house as well, according to the message.
Coppermine 4 Seasons in Hampstead (formerly 4 Seasons Sports Complex) took to its Facebook page Wednesday morning to post a detailed message about the reopening plan, which is set to begin Saturday morning at 7. All staff, members, and guests will be given temperature checks, according to the Facebook post. Anyone with a fever or any other symptoms will not be allowed inside.
Proper traffic patterns around the building will help with social distancing, and Coppermine is set to use a medical-grade germicidal cleaner several times a day throughout the facility on all of its non-porous surfaces. Air purifiers will be used in the small studio spaces, according to the social media post.
Live classes are slated to begin Saturday, but virtual classes are still available for Coppermine members. Saunas and steam rooms are staying closed for now, according to the Facebook post, and reservations are required for the facility’s squash, racquetball, tennis, and pickleball clinics and camps.
Meanwhile, Gold’s Gym Eldersburg is prepping to reopen Saturday morning at 8, according to a post on its Facebook page. Gold’s is planning to limit members’ workout times to 90 minutes, and its classes are going to be registration-based. Hours of operation will also be limited during the first week of reopening, according to the post.
Merritt Clubs Eldersburg is planning to reopen Friday at 5 p.m., as is Planet Fitness in Westminster.
Both gyms have altered their hours and regulations on capacity restrictions and proper health practices, according to their social media posts and website information.
It’s a modified business model for all of the gyms and fitness centers in the area, but Fulton said it’s progress after being closed for three months.
“I think it’s a good idea to open up the businesses because our economy has suffered enough,” she said. “I think you have to weigh the cost versus the danger, I guess, and just take as many precautions as possible and movie forward so that we don’t totally destroy our economy.”