If any positives can emerge from a pandemic, one might be the further realization of just how important the athletics, fitness and recreation industries are to our collective physical and mental wellbeing. Most professionals were more than willing to shutter their storefronts and sacrifice entire playing seasons as the nation came to grips with COVID-19, but there’s no denying the deep sense of loss inherent to that process — feelings exacerbated by the months of forced inactivity and isolation that followed.
It’s no wonder the desire to get back to business is so strong.
Now comes the challenging work of reopening. With renewed commitment to customer service and care, industry leaders are re-examining the operational status quo like never before — and finding safer ways to deliver the most coveted of end products: good health.
These pages represent an overview of progress being made by organizations and individuals alike during this unpredictable period of transition in athletics, fitness and recreation.
The AB Editors
By Paul Steinbach
Mere months ago, even as universities closed and spring sports seasons were canceled, it was hard to imagine fall without college football. Then it became harder to picture how football could possibly happen. Would players be asked to report to campus even if non-athlete students could not? Would fans be welcomed to fill stadiums to capacity? A fraction of capacity? Not welcomed at all?
By Jason Scott
One of the challenges with coordinating a national response to the pandemic is that its impact varies from place to place — even within the same state.
Still, states are doing their best to coordinate plans for returning to high school sports with guidance from entities such as the National Federation of State High School Associations, but also under the direction of state and local governments in consultation with public health experts.
NFHS guidelines specify recommendations for health screenings, group size limitations, facility cleaning, physical contact and athletic equipment outlined in phases — the idea being that as the crisis fades, restrictions can be loosened. However, given the fluidity of the situation and the rights of each state and state high school association to govern itself, high school athletic directors may have a lot of blanks to fill in as we head toward the fall sports season.
By Paul Steinbach
Stanford University is on one side of the reopening conversation, admits Alex Accetta, executive director of Stanford Recreation and Wellness — the side of extreme caution.
From his vantage point in already cautious California (the Cal State University system is continuing virtual classes into the fall), Accetta has been made aware of schools across the country planning to reopen in a business-as-usual fashion, schools that are reopening their campuses with limited residential life (no roommates, for example) and schools that are reopening their campuses with no residential life at all. “If it’s a residential campus and people aren’t there, it will hurt,” he says, adding, “A lot of schools are commuter schools. People will still come — they just won’t have the numbers, so they probably won’t be able to do as much programming. It’s a big ripple effect.”
As Accetta eyes a late-September start of a new academic year, he admits that surrounding Santa Clara County (as of late May, at least) isn’t “too far along” in its own reopening process. His hope for Stanford, a private school not affiliated with the CSU system, is to handle change while minimizing impact on end-users. “The rec world will just look smaller,” he says. “Maybe we’re going to offer four different yoga classes in four different rooms at 30 percent capacity, but Wednesday will be yoga day. And then the next day will be light bootcamp day. I don’t know. People in sports and recreation are pretty innovative, and I think you’ll just see it look slightly different, and I think you’ll see regional and local differences.”
By Andy Berg
David Collignon was having a conversation with a Blink Fitness member who’d just returned to one of the franchise’s recently reopened locations. The member happened to be a nurse, and Collignon, senior vice president at Blink, asked her how she felt about returning to the gym amid the current pandemic.
“She told me she felt safer at Blink than she did in her work environment,” Collignon says, noting that the company has worked hard to develop an 80-page playbook for reopening that considers everything from CDC guidelines to state and local regulations.
By Andy Berg
As public parks and rec departments think about reopening, they’re charged with doing so for an incredibly diverse range of people, facilities and programming.
“Typically we will have participants aged zero through 99,” says Chris Nunes, director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Houston. “In our area we have 150 parks, and we’ve had to educate ourselves on how people are going to fish with social distancing requirements in place? How are people going to play tennis, pickleball, basketball? Fill in the blank, we have that type of service.”
Houston also has an immensely popular boat house, two public rec centers, an adventure course, and 14 pools. As a result, Nunes and his staff have had to rely on advice from an equally diverse body of resources, from trade publications to local, state and federal authorities, as well as “nearly every sport governing body imaginable.”
This article originally appeared in the July|August 2020 issue of Athletic Businesswithin a special section titled "Return Service." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has halted the way society operates. Its impacts will last for the foreseeable future, prompting companies across the fitness and recreation industries to adapt to a new normal that discourages close contact and promotes clean spaces in which to work out and play. The following companies have developed everything from advanced methods of sanitation to at-home workouts, hands-free technology and ways to implement social distancing.
On-Site Hypochlorous Acid Generator ChlorKing® allows anyone to make their own high-strength sanitizer with HYPOGEN. The product allows sanitizer to be made on demand to keep surfaces clean at aquatic centers and athletic facilities. ChlorKing’s technology uses salt, acid, water and electricity to generate hypochlorous acid with neutral electrolyzed water as its central component. HYPOGEN is all-natural, organic, ecologically safe and 100 times better than bleach for killing viruses and pathogens without hazardous chemicals.
With a powerful, intuitive desktop platform and a modern, responsive member portal, Fusion provides extensive capabilities to recreation professionals and their customers. Fusion offers everything needed to open facilities safely — from contactless entry and payment options to facility capacity counts and support for online group fitness programming. The custom mobile app FusionGO includes barcode facility access and push notifications.
GANTNER Technologies Inc.
GANTNER’s award-winning RFID terminal GT7 was created with a focus on simplicity and user experience. The GT7 is versatile, providing users with a choice of utilizing conventional wristband technology or mobile applications. As long as the appropriate applications are downloaded, the versatility of the device enables users to automate many services in fitness clubs. The GT7 is a state-of-the-art solution for check-in, vending, lockers and more. All leading fitness club management software suppliers provide interfaces to GANTNER devices, ensuring a smooth and seamless integration. G7 Connect cloud services provide complete control and maximum operability by allowing for easy setup, administration and maintenance.
Kay Park Rec Corp
In a post-pandemic world, social distancing may become the new normal. Kay Park Recreation’s suggestions for enforcing social distancing at events include adding more seating to allow space for fans to spread out in family groups, adding tape markings and signage to bleachers where people can sit together with enough distance between the groups, and asking for volunteer “hosts” to help people sit in appropriately distanced spaces.
Kennedy Industries’ Kenshield Athletic Laundry Pre-Soak Disinfectant can be used as an antibacterial laundry additive, bacteriostatic and deodorizer on washable fabrics like athletic apparel and clothing. EPA-approved effective against COVID-19, as well as effective against dangerous germs like MRSA and Staph, Kenshield is ready to keep athletes safe. The product eliminates bad odors and germs found on wet and soiled laundry without using fragrances or dyes.
The lockdown has created strong consumer fitness demands in the market. It is important to be ready to reopen facilities safely. Technogym has developed a complete consultancy service that covers digital services for booking and managing gym access, new layouts for social distancing, guidance on cleaning and hygiene, communication support and a wide range of services to support businesses looking to become a reference point for the well-being of their local community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced challenging times as everyone adapts their lifestyle to protect themselves and others. One way to reduce the spread of disease is to keep physical distance between each other. Turf Tank, the market leader in robotic GPS line marking, has developed a social distancing solution that allows any organization to paint social distancing zones on any type of surface. The zones keep the space between individuals or families.