The fitness area of the community centre is set to open Monday, but with some changes.
When the province moved the town into the red-control group March 1, fitness centres were permitted to open, but the town held off for two weeks, citing safety of residents and staff.
To ensure safety protocols can be met, the track will be moved downstairs to the main auditorium, says Kevin Turcotte, manager of parks and recreation, providing more space for physical distancing.
When the community centre is used as a vaccination clinic, which is expected to be one day a week — although the details are constantly evolving, he says — the track will be unavailable.
Although he hadn’t heard which day, “we’ll be communicating with the gym members once we have that information. We’re still waiting for details about the clinic.”
At this time, access to the fitness area will be the only service available at the community centre, Turcotte says.
There will be extra sanitizing by staff, with equipment cleaned after each use, and some equipment has to be moved or closed off to allow for three metres distance between machines,
Last reopening, some of the cardio equipment and spin bikes were relocated to the auditorium to allow for more space, but that won’t work this time, with the vaccination clinic using the same space.
“I think everyone wants to be physically active,” he says, and members were anxious for this reopening. “We wanted to be sure we could open safely and protect the public as much as possible.”
John Watt and his wife Elaine Tanner were two members anxious to get back to exercising at the town’s fitness centre. Watt, a former parks and recreation director for a city with a much larger population than NOTL, was not happy to learn that, although permitted by the province, the town’s fitness area was not going to reopen.
Tanner, a former Olympic swimmer, “was going up the wall” with the fitness centre closed, Watt said.
He communicated his displeasure to town staff, and was told there were no plans to open it any time soon, he says. That information led Watt and Tanner to join a St. Catharines fitness centre, even though they had prepaid for a year’s membership, up until October, at the NOTL community centre.
He called the decision to keep the community centre closed, despite provincial lifting of that restriction, “oppression and disservice to the NOTL community.
“It’s a small gym, and simple to manage. I’ve never seen more than 10 people there at the same time, maximum.”
Physical exercise is so important to good health, he says, and it should be available close to home. It’s also essential for good mental health, especially at this time, when people are suffering increased depression due to the pandemic.
He also expressed his dissatisfaction in emails to some of the town’s politicians, and he suspects he wasn’t the only gym member who spoke out. The response to his concern from Lord Mayor Betty Disero, and Councillors Clare Cameron and Wendy Cheropita, indicated they would look into the reasons behind the continued closure. He was impressed by their speedy response, and feels they may have helped to get it reopened.
He’s also grateful the decision was made to end the delay. It’s a vital part of the community, for people of all ages, he says.
Tanner will likely use both gyms, the one in St. Catharines they’ve already joined and the one in the community centre. Watt is exercising more cautiously at the moment, as he recovers from surgery, but he expects he will do the same.
Turcotte says throughout the pandemic, everything the town has done has shown leadership, taking a proactive approach to the health and safety of residents and staff.
The town’s Emergency Control Group made the decision to delay the reopening of the community centre for an extra two weeks, based on capacity limits, staffing resources, cleaning requirements, transmission rates and information regarding vaccination clinics.
Staff also monitored the response and impact of delaying the reopening of the community centre.
It also takes some time to ensure every provincial regulation is being interpreted correctly, and that with the resources available, including additional staff, the operational plan can be followed, says Turcotte.
The NOTL Public Library will open for some in-person services the same day, March 15, but there hasn’t been a decision about the Sweets & Swirls Cafe yet, he says.
More information regarding reopening procedures and booking requirements for reserving use of the fitness areas within the community centre, will be available on the town’s website.
At this time, the Meridian Credit Union and Centennial Arenas will remain closed until further notice, with town staff reviewing potential options to reopen in the future.