Gyms reopen as part of state's Phase 1 initiative
Countless businesses have suffered under the strain of COVID-19. Bars, restaurants, retail stores and more continue to struggle mightily to keep their proverbial heads above water as the state begins reopening in hopes of resuscitating an economy looking for a shot in the arm.
Among those businesses looking to bounce back in the early stages of Oregon's Phase 1 response are gyms. People typically prone to using treadmills, elliptical machines and intricate weightlifting apparatus pre-pandemic were left with neighborhood walks and dumbbells instead of the workouts to which they had become accustomed. Now, however, the bulk of your local gyms are back in business. But while opening their doors, upon entry all won't be as it was — at least early on.
"This is obviously about fitness," Muv Fitness district manager Chanze Patterson said. "But it's also about safety, and we take the safety of our members very seriously."
Muv — located off of Northwest Cornell Road near the Streets of Tanasbourne shopping complex — reopened Monday, June 1. As part of that reopening, the club has implemented a number of new protocols in an effort to create the safest environment possible. Machines have been closed to allow for social distancing, sanitary stations have been created throughout the club with cleaning products readily available for use, and monitors are consistently moving throughout the gym, cleaning and making sure people are following the proper procedures. In addition, each member is greeted at the door and prepped by a member of the Muv staff on new safety procedures.
How's it been working? So far, so good, according to Patterson. But while restricted to an extent, more than anything, people are just happy to be back in the gym, she thinks.
"Probably the word that I can express the most about our members is 'appreciative,'" Patterson said. "They're so happy that we're open. These have been tough times, and people use this as an outlet. When their outlet was taken away, when they came back, they were so grateful, they were like, 'Whatever you need to stay open, we'll do it.'"
Existing members have been slowly working their way back, but Muv has seen an influx of new members in the past couple of weeks, as other clubs have yet to open their doors or have gone out of business altogether.
"We've seen a lot of new members come in the door and say, 'Hey, unfortunately, my club didn't make it, can we join here?'" she said. "And we're like, 'Of course.'"
One of those clubs still awaiting opening is 24 Hour Fitness. The national chain announced Monday, June 15, that it had filed for bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic and would be closing 100 locations nationwide.
"If it were not for COVID-19 and its devastating effects, we would not be filing for Chapter 11," chief executive officer Tony Ueber said in a statement. "We expect to have substantial financing with a path to restructuring our balance sheet and operations to ensure a resilient future."
Among the 300 24 Hour Fitness locations that are tabbed to reopen Monday, June 22, are two Beaverton locations at 1265 N.W. Waterhouse Ave. and 11100 S.W Murray Scholls Place, along with the Hillsboro location at 6095 S.E. Tualatin Valley Highway. The gym at 4145 S.W. Watson Ave. in Beaverton will not be reopening.
24 Hour Fitness said in a statement that the restructuring will result in "reinvestment in our existing clubs, opening new clubs and introducing products and services."
Like Muv, 24 Hour Fitness has slated a number of safety procedures upon its reopening June 22, including but not limited to social distancing protocols, limited occupancy which will require workout reservations, touch-free check-in, and reduced hours to insure overnight cleaning. Temporarily, ball sports will not be allowed, Kids' Clubs, wet areas and drinking fountains will remain closed, and dedicated hours will be available at some locations for seniors only.
Suffering a similar financial fate to 24 Hour Fitness, industry stalwart Gold's Gym filed for bankruptcy in May, and Town Sports International — which owns roughly 200 gyms primarily on the East Coast — was forced to lay off much of its 7,000-person workforce and is ceasing rent payments.
Among the survivors, national franchises LA Fitness and Planet Fitness as well as local Forest Grove spots The Gym and Fitness 1440, Scappoose's Fitness Connection and Snap Fitness, and more have reopened — all with social distancing and extra safety protocols in place.
The Sherwood Family YMCA also reopened this week.
Patterson said that a key to Muv's survival was maintaining a relationship with members during the club's closure. She said despite ceasing billing, the gym offered services including online classes and advisement for its members during the quarantine.
"First and foremost, we wanted to know how everybody was doing and whether they were okay healthwise," Patterson said. "We wanted them to know that we're still here, we're still thinking about you, and we still want you to stay on track to reach your goals."
Now, despite still being in the grips of a pandemic, the gyms are open, the people are coming back, and few are happier than Patterson, her employees and clients at gyms like her's who are looking for at least a sense of "normal."
"It was tough," Patterson said. "We thrive on energy, people and our surroundings. When your mission is to change and save as many lives as you can, in the communities that we operate in, and then you get closed down and don't have that opportunity to see people face-to-face and save lives. It was tough."
By Wade Evanson
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