East Carolina University’s recreation centers and local Greenville fitness and physical activity centers have reopened under North Carolina’s Phase 2.5 state reopening guidelines which allow them to operate at 30% capacity.
North Carolina moved into Phase 2.5 of the state’s reopening plan on Sept. 4, according to the North Carolina Government website. Under this order, gathering limits have increased to 25 individuals indoors and 50 outdoors.
The Student Recreation Center (SRC) on ECU’s Main Campus has since been reopened on Sept. 8, as well as the Campus Recreation and Wellness (CRW) Center at the Health Sciences Student Center.
Assistant Director for Communications and Promotions for the SRC Jenny Gregory said she is excited ECU’s recreation centers have reopened. Gregory said her department has spaced out the equipment, made sure the time-slot website was properly set up and ensured the staff was well trained before it reopened.
“I don't think we're going to have this huge spike in (COVID-19) cases,” Gregory said. “This is just my personal opinion; this does not reflect the Recreation and Wellness Center, but as much as we're cleaning touchpoints, as much as we're spacing out equipment, we don't have a ton of cardio, (so) I feel like we're doing what needs to be done to keep all of the people safe.”
The recreation centers’ operational hours will vary depending on the day, but the staff will reevaluate them on Sept. 14. Individuals can visit the CRW website to see the hours of operation for all recreation centers as well as any updates or further information.
Gregory said individuals who want to use the recreation centers must fill out a time-slot online.
Temperature checks will be given upon entry, the locker rooms remain open to allow people to change and individuals must bring their own towels, she said.
With the new guidelines, personal belongings cannot be stored in the lockers and the Mind and Body and spin studios will not be open, she said. The basketball and racquetball courts remain closed.
The American Council of Education (ACE) said individuals who wear a face-covering while they exercise at a moderate-to-high intensity level can have airflow restrictions, according to Gregory. The recreation centers will only require people to wear masks if they exercise at a low-intensity level or when they walk around to switch to different equipment, she said.
“We do want people to watch their own levels of intensity, but sometimes people won’t have their masks on, so we had to increase the distance,” Gregory said. “For example (with) our group fitness classes, once they’re moved indoors, we're going to move them on a court in which they are about 15 feet apart because when you're doing increased intensity you need to be further apart.”
Student Government Association (SGA) Director of Health and Wellness Emma Goldberg, who is also a fourth-year PhD graduate student, said she has looked forward to the recreation centers reopening. She said she took tours of both centers to see the changes that have been made to make sure individuals can safely return to the gym.
Individuals must check-out the specific equipment they want to use, Goldberg said. A green tag indicates that a piece of equipment has been disinfected, and the tag will be replaced with a red tag until it is cleaned again, she said.
“The staff is taking 30 minutes to really deep clean in addition to spot cleaning each time a person uses equipment. They (staff members) encourage everybody to wipe out all the machines before and after use,” Goldberg said.
There are added hand sanitizer stations and disinfectant wipe stations throughout the recreation centers, Goldberg said.
The recreation centers have taken the necessary safety precautions to keep everyone healthy, Goldberg said. She said she believes the recreation centers reopening could contribute a lot to the overall number of COVID-19 cases, but it is a low possibility with the precautions set in place.
“I'm just being very positive about it, but I'm very hopeful that they (staff members) are going to continue to do a really good job making sure that nothing gets spread,” Goldberg said. “I think that the people who decide to go to the gym don't want to risk having the gym shut down again so I think students, myself included, are going to take all precautions really seriously.”
In order not to take steps backward, the ECU community should prioritize health and safety, Goldberg said. She said she encourages individuals to protect themselves and others while they continue to take care of their physical and mental wellbeing.
Justin Waters, assistant director of facilities, aquatics and outreach at the SRC, said it is fortunate students, faculty and staff are able to focus on and recreate their overall well-being again since COVID-19 has caused additional stressors for many. Waters said he is glad students will be able to work again as the recreation centers are the largest employers on-campus.
Waters said there are many safety precautions and guidelines for the indoor pool he helped set in place to help reduce COVID-19 cases on campus.
“For the Student Recreation Center (SRC) indoor pool, we have created a reservation system through our CRW app. Users will register for a workout time, which can be done in advance or when they arrive at the SRC,” Waters said.
Swimmers will be assigned a numbered lane and lane entries will alternate, which means those who have an odd lane will enter from the west side of the pool and evens will enter from the east, according to Waters.
Individuals are encouraged to come in the swimwear, properly social distance, wear face masks at all times except when they’re in the pool and they can use the chairs to hold belongings, Waters said. He said when individuals complete their session, staff will thoroughly disinfect touch points prior to the next appointment.
“From a facilities standpoint, my colleagues and I have been working non-stop since March to ensure we mitigated and eliminated as many risks as possible in order to provide the safest workout opportunity for our students, faculty, and staff,” Waters said.
Some fitness centers in Greenville have since opened since Phase 2.5 was put into effect and continue to require guest to take the precautions necessary against COVID-19.
Dennis Vestal, manager at the Greenville Aquatics and Fitness Center, located at 200 W 5th St. said he was disappointed to shut down because of COVID-19 in March, but understood the reasons behind it.
Vestal said he has had to cancel or freeze a lot of the gym memberships during this time, so the revenue of the gym has gone down.
The staff of the Greenville Aquatics and Fitness Center posted online workouts and video content on the gym’s website to get his members active, according to Vestal. He said these virtual workouts were free of charge to his members.
“Our goal at the time was to keep our members engaged until they were able to come back into the facility,” Vestal said.
Greenville Aquatics and Fitness Center continues to follow a protocol to make sure staff and members are safe, according to Vestal. He said the staff disinfects the areas and barriers have been put in place between staff at the desk and gym attendees.
Vestal said his goal is to get the gym to run at the same capacity and efficiency as it did before COVID-19. The staff wants to be able to reintroduce the team fitness classes and the aquatic classes soon, he said.
Carissa Chapel is the owner of Title Boxing Club, located at 3700 Charles Blvd., Chapel has owned the boxing club for two and a half years.
“We didn’t really skip a beat at Title, so we already had plans in place ahead of time,” Chapel said.
Title Boxing Club had zoom classes and different online classes to make up for the gym being closed, according to Chapel. She said after a couple of weeks of quarantine, she did start to question how long the gym will be closed and how she can maintain keeping her staff paid.
Before Phase 2.5, the gym was able to open up on a smaller scale because of some people needing to workout because of medical needs, according to Chapel. She said the gym has social distancing rules in place to keep people safe and, other than during workouts, masks are required to be worn.
“We have always been a very clean gym, but we have taken our cleaning regulations to the next level,” Chapel said.
Title Boxing Club was recently able to open back up to the public, so the staff has been taking precautions with all the people coming in, according to Chapel. She said many different classes have opened up, such as a group for people struggling with Parkinson's disease and children's groups for kids out of school due to COVID-19.
Chapel said her future plan for Title Boxing Club is just to stay open. She said she wants to be able to grow her services with activities, such as one-on-one classes for people to come in after hours.
“It’s kind of a cliche because we’re a gym, but we will be even stronger than when we went into this thing when we come out of it,” Chapel said.