Ohio, Kentucky gym owners scramble to prep for reopening

Posted at 2:34 PM, May 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-25 20:12:49-04

After waiting two months for the green light to reopen, gyms in Ohio and Kentucky are days away from welcoming members again. Owners in Ohio, where the reopening date is Tuesday, and Kentucky, which will wait another week, admitted Monday the process had been stressful.

“I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” said Kristen McAuliffe, who owns It’s Working Out in Cincinnati.

She moved her fitness classes online in March, when Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton’s stay-at-home order forbade gyms from holding them in person. In the meantime, she stocked up on cleaning supplies — a “really difficult, really expensive” process at the height of their scarcity, she said.

Her preparation ensured she would be ready to reopen Tuesday.

“I feel like we’ve really gone above and beyond” to protect guests from COVID-19, McAuliffe said.

Across the river, Newport Fitness owner Emily Wagner struggled. She’s known that gyms will be able to reopen starting June 1, but owners only received government guidelines a few days ago. She spent the intervening time running daily financial projections and contacting every single member of her gym to see if they planned to return or put their accounts on hold.

“It’s been an administrative nightmare for the last two weeks just trying to get in touch with people,” she said.

Knowing what she’d need to do in order to reopen created a new set of tasks. Wagner will only allow 33% of the gym’s normal capacity inside, and 8-by-12-foot “social distancing squares” will be marked out on the floor. Clients won’t be allowed to exercise outside the square, but some may eventually be able to join 10-person outdoor workouts in the parking lot.

McAuliffe described a plan to double-sanitize every piece of equipment after use. Flippable signs reading “sanitized/not sanitized” will indicate what’s clean and what isn’t, and all of the equipment will be color-coded to deter cross-contamination.

“I know all our members are going to do this (stay safe),” she said. “Just be really safe and be smart. Only come if you’re really comfortable and you have no symptoms and haven’t been around anyone that’s sick. It’s just all common sense.”

Wagner admitted she remained worried about the financial future of her gym. She lost 10 weeks of revenue, and limited-capacity rules will prevent her from making it up. She expects to be preparing for the reopening every moment between this Monday and the next.

“We’re going to be working up until the very last second,” Wagner said. “I can guarantee I’m going to be here next Sunday night cleaning this gym still, getting everything ready, making sure all the memberships are in place so that we’re ready to roll at 5 a.m. on Monday.”