The final touches are being made to Tendring District Council’s (TDC) leisure centres to make sure they are safe for the public to use from next month – if government guidelines allow.
The move comes as thousands of gyms and leisure centres across the country prepare to re-open as part of the Fit Together campaign from industry trade body ukactive, of which TDC is a member.
The campaign is based on the Government’s guidelines for re-opening, which were supported by ukactive and approved by independent scientific advisors – and re-opening will follow the public health guidance.
Signs will be in place to guide leisure centre users on how to act safely and responsibly while using equipment or facilities, and visitors will notice a number of changes.
Across TDC’s sites – at Clacton, Walton-on-the-Naze, Brightlingsea, Harwich, Dovercourt and Manningtree – there will be a number of changes to ensure safety.
All fitness classes, gym and swimming sessions must be pre-booked online or by phone, so that leisure centre user numbers can be managed effectively, and people are advised to check opening time as these will be amended to allow deep cleaning to take place.
Bookings can be made at https://www.tendringdc.gov.uk/leisure/leisure-centres-and-pools or by calling the relevant centre reception.
Changing rooms and showers will be unavailable for gym and class users, so visitors are asked to arrive on site wearing the appropriate clothing to be active, and not to bring gym towels to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Changing facilities will still be available for pool users.
Gym equipment where possible has been moved to allow for social distancing, swimming lanes will be reduced and widened, fitness classes have been relocated into larger areas within some centres and we are exploring the option in taking classes outside. Water fountains will be out of use, so visitors are encouraged to bring their own bottled water.
Along with social distancing restrictions, there will be an increase in the cleaning of equipment and sanitisation stations, to ensure the highest possible standards of hygiene and cleanliness, while screens have been installed in reception areas.
The spa facility at Clacton Leisure Centre will remain closed as it cannot be operated under social distancing, and outdoor sports pitches are also unavailable except for racket sports.
Temporary measures will be adapted as and when government and industry advice changes throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and TDC is taking a phased approach to full re-opening.
For the first month, only over-16s will be allowed to visit while users and staff adapt to the changes, in line with industry best practice.
Alex Porter, TDC Cabinet Member for Leisure and Tourism, reassured the public that its facilities would be safe – but advised people to call if they have concerns.
“Since 20 March our leisure centres have been closed, meaning members and casual users have been unable to access some of their favourite activities and sports,” Councillor Porter said.
“However, we have spent that time wisely. Staff have still been doing all the checks you would expect, as well as putting in place these additional measures, so that we will be ready to open when we get the go-ahead from Government.
“We’ve also taken the opportunity of having empty buildings to carry out some refurbishment work, such as installing new lights, repairing pool tank tiling and painting.
“I would like to thank all of our staff who have continued to help out during the Coronavirus lockdown, from running virtual gym classes, checking our buildings, or being deployed to support other council services during this difficult time.
“Big thanks also goes to our members who have been very understanding while we navigated the new rules, and we would ask all leisure centre users to be patient when they return as this is new for us all.”
Memberships have been frozen during the lockdown, and existing members will also get access for free throughout July as a thank you and in lieu of the days in March which they missed out on.
It is proposed that from August memberships will be at 50% rate as not all services will be available, with this policy to be reviewed monthly as government and industry restrictions change. This decision is subject to call-in, and leisure centre members will be contacted confirming the details once the policy is formally approved.
Individual casual prices will remain the same.
Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “Fitness and leisure facilities are part of the social fabric of our society, and it’s clear our sector has a vital role to play in our resilience and recovery from COVID-19.
“We know that people have missed being active together in our facilities, and ukactive’s Fit Together campaign shows that customer and staff safety will be our number one priority when they return.
“Reopening our facilities requires a collective responsibility from operators and customers, and we know our members will be proud to use the Fit Together message as the sector unites in its tireless work to keep the nation moving.”
Recent research conducted by Sport England and Savanta ComRes showed 87% of gym members said they are likely to resume their membership when facilities reopen and 27% of people who are not currently members of gyms said they are likely to join.