The Delaware community will soon have access to its YMCA once again as life begins returning to some semblance of normalcy. Beginning Monday, June 8, members will have select access to the facility as the Central Ohio YMCA implements a phased approach to reopening its centers.
Representatives of the Delaware Community Center YMCA, which has been closed since March 16, welcomed guests from the City of Delaware, as well as The Gazette, into the facility Wednesday to discuss their plans for reopening and to highlight the health and safety protocols that will be implemented when the doors reopen.
“The bottom line is there is no map for this,” Tony Collins, CEO of the Central Ohio YMCA, said of the plan to reopen. “Fortunately, with our timing, we’ve been able to learn from some of our peers around the state and around the country to find out what’s working, what’s not working.”
Collins said local decisions concerning the reopening of the Delaware Community Center YMCA have been based, first and foremost, on health and safety. Other primary factors considered included what’s fiscally sustainable, what will allow them to have the largest impact on the largest number of people, and whether or not they were even ready to reopen.
“With those filters, (Associate Executive Director) Roger (Hanafin), (Regional Vice President of Operations) Lolita (Haverlock), and our team have put together a plan, and we’re pretty excited about it,” Collins said. “We think that we have a good phase-in approach, we’re going to open slow. But if we think that we’re going to be able to get to things quicker, hopefully, we’ll provide more offerings sooner rather than later.”
Hanafin stressed the staff at the Delaware YMCA put considerable time into ensuring that whenever the facility reopened, it was the proper time and that the staff was ready to do so. He said the very idea of the YMCA was built on being a safe haven to people.
“That’s what the Y has always been, being that safe place where you can go and work on being a better person,” Hanafin said. “We are nothing if we don’t provide that; that’s what the Y is.”
To start, the Delaware YMCA hours will be from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m., followed by a cleaning period and reopening from 4-8 p.m. on Monday through Friday. Saturdays will be open during the morning. Hanafin said those hours were decided based on the center’s highest hours of usage in the past.
The first change patrons will notice when entering the building will be a check-in and check-out station just inside the front entrance to the building. Hanafin said patrons will be queued outside prior to checking in with their touchless keycard or mobile app. A waiver will be presented to each patron with all the safety guidelines associated with the reopening.
Along with the waiver, each patron will be asked a series of five questions relating to the symptoms of COVID-19. Temperature checks will not be done on members, nor will they be required to wear masks, although face coverings are recommended when walking throughout the facility. Staff, however, will be subjected to both temperature checks and face coverings at all times.
Upon entering the facility, members will notice a group of treadmills just off to the right of the lobby that has been moved there to better space out equipment. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. each day, that area will be accessible for senior members only. The equipment will receive both a deep clean, which requires a 1o-minute period of sanitization, and further intermittent cleaning throughout the day.
All lobby furniture has been removed to help keep people moving throughout the facility, putting in their work, and not lingering in one place for too long.
Certain hallways, as well as the gymnasium, remain marked off for the time being. Upstairs in the workout room, some machines will be out of commission to ensure social distancing practices of at least six feet are being upheld.
Kaylyn Kiser, a staff member at the Delaware YMCA, said members will be encouraged to wipe down the equipment when they are finished, but there will also be staff constantly wandering around the room with a cleaning bottle, wiping down stations as soon as a member is finished with it. Hanafin said the entire feel of the workout room will feel much more open to members, given the spacing in equipment.
In addition to the workout room, the track will also be open to members as part of the initial June 8 restart.
Hanafin said group-exercise activities will return on June 29 and will utilize the gymnasium due to the space it provides. He added that on days where it is feasible, outdoor space may also be utilized for group sessions. The YMCA announced a new reservation system that will allow members to reserve their spot prior to a class. The system will be accessible to members through the app.
“That’s going to be a great way for us to really be able to make sure that we’re not overcrowding, that we’re monitoring the size (of classes),” Hanafin said.
The indoor swimming pool is scheduled to reopen on July 1, and families will be able to reserve time to use sections of the pool for leisure swimming.
Hanafin said staff will constantly reassess their operations to make sure they are running the center to the best of their ability along with what the current circumstances dictate. He said, “I can guarantee you that whatever June 8 looks like, June 9 is going to look a little bit different.”
Given the economic downturn as a result of the pandemic, and the financial hardships so many families are facing, the question remains of how those families’ ability to afford their memberships will be affected. Hanafin acknowledged there has never been a greater need for financial support in communities than there is now, given the pandemic. He said those conversations are ones the YMCA is always happy to have with those who wish to a part of the Y community but might not be able to afford it.
To that point, Collins said the Central Ohio YMCA has spent the better part of the last two months fundraising for “some of the emergency support needs we’ve put in place.”
“Our attention is pivoting this week to the Big Give (fundraiser), asking the community to provide support for families who want to be a part of the Y, want to be a part of our program, but the fact is the economy has been hit too hard,” Collins said. “We believe one in five families is going to need some type of financial aid during this crisis.”
Collins added there are three different mechanisms the YMCA is looking into to help assist those families in their financial needs. The first, he said, is individual giving. “Our members know they are a part of a cause,” Collins said, adding that over 50% of members are still paying their full dues through the closure, knowing they are contributing to a greater cause.
Along with individual giving, local sponsorship and the Big Give will also be important avenues for financial aid.
According to Collins, Ohio’s YMCA centers are seeing around 25-30% of last year’s accounts returning upon reopening. Hanafin said he understands there could be a variety of reasons families aren’t quite ready to return when the center opens next week, and they will work with families to try to find a solution that works when they are ready to return. “We’re here to help you,” Hanafin said.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.