Fitness gyms big and small around Fresno and Clovis are preparing to reopen. Regardless of the size, the plans are similar — physical distancing and lots of sanitization.
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“People need gyms for anxiety, stress or help to stay in shape. So it’s going to be good when we get back,” said George Brown, owner of local fitness chain GB3. “We’re really excited to get back whenever that is. We’re ready to go.”
Gyms like GB3 have been shut down since state and local emergency orders went into effect in March. Despite the easing of restrictions on many businesses, gyms are considered higher risk and will be in Stage 3 of California’s reopening plan. No date has been given as to when that may happen.
While Brown says he will wait for the green light, a smaller facility in Clovis will open its doors no matter what on June 1.
Athletic Performance: We’re Reopening
Athletic Performance Fitness in Old Town Clovis is proud to have local professional athletes among its clients.
That includes Jordan Luplow of the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers prospect Jake Gatewood, Chicago Bears QB Tyler Bray, and Detroit Lions guard Kenny Wiggins.
“Their careers depend on how hard they train in the off-season,” says owner David Standifer.
Standifer says he is reopening no matter what on June 1.
“The city of Clovis is not enforcing the shelter-in-place anymore. As long as we follow the guidelines, they’re not going to fine us. The only one who could technically fine us would be the county,” Standifer said. “It’s tough because yes, the state hasn’t fully released you, but we’re a small facility. We don’t work with big groups, so we’re taking the mandatory requirements to keep our people safe.
“As long as we take the required steps, we feel pretty confident we’ll be in compliance.”
Social Distancing in the Club
GB3, with five locations in Fresno and Clovis, is one of the larger and well-known locally owned clubs.
While GB3 is shut down, Brown’s managers are refiguring the clubs for opening. Exercise machines will be spread out by at least six feet.
“We’re working on all the health guidelines for employees and members coming in, like taking the employees’ temperature and checking them out every day and then asking members particular questions if they have a fever, cough and things like this,” Brown said.
Sanitizing and cleaning will be key, both clubs say.
“We’ll have people that their full job will be going around and cleaning all surfaces and any door handles and anything people touch,” Brown said. The club will engage in deep cleaning after hours.
Athletic Performance Fitness, which emphasizes personal and team training, says class sizes are likely to shrink. Instead of groups of 20, they will train groups of four instead. Trainers will rotate fitness groups, with one assigned to full-time cleaning of equipment.
Standifer said clients will have to check in before entering the gym, using a touchless thermometer monitor to check their temperature.
Both clubs say masks will be required for employees but not clients.
Gym Business Suffers
“Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of sleepless nights.” — Athletic Performance Fitness owner David Standifer
Brown says his business is hurting like many others.
“We shut down immediately when we were told to. We’ve suspended all membership payments. So we’re not collecting money from people,” Brown said.
Brown furloughed 85% of his employees, keeping some corporate staff and managers.
Money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program will help.
“It is hard and we are just can’t wait to reopen,” Brown said.
When the state does allow for gyms to reopen, Brown anticipates a quick turnaround to unlock the doors.
“I’m ready. Instead of getting stressed out over it, I’ll take it as a challenge and we’ll try and do a great job. Things do evolve. We’re going to evolve with whatever we have to do to have a prosperous business and a safe business for employees and members,” Brown said.
Standifer lost 85% of his clients, his primary source of revenue for the club. He estimates losses at $40,000.
“Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of sleepless nights,” Standifer said.
He’s tried to keep his trainers employed by offering online classes.
“Trainers had been working probably six hours a day. Now, they are down to one or two hours a day,” Standifer said.
Changing the Business Model
Brown said there will be changes when GB3 reopens. Locker rooms and showers will be closed.
The club is unlikely to offer aerobics class at the start. Daycare may also not immediately be available. Pools are still in doubt as well.
“We want to be prepared where we can open and be safe for our members and safe for our employees. It’s a whole new learning curve of how we’re going to operate,” Brown said.
Standifer said he will have to charge more for his clients, but with smaller class sizes, will offer more personal attention.
“We’re actually going to come out of this a lot stronger. If you’d asked me just about five weeks ago, I don’t know,” Standifer said. “We can charge a little bit more and the clients will see a better product.”