CHARLOTTE, N.C. — January is typically the busiest month of the year at fitness gyms, both in traffic and new memberships as people begin their New Year’s resolutions to exercise more and lose weight.
But for many, the pandemic has changed where and how they work out, causing some smaller, locally owned fitness facilities to close.
The YMCA of Greater Charlotte, however, said they consider themselves one of the lucky ones. They said they’ve been able to keep 13 health and wellness locations open.
“The main reason we’re able to still open our doors is because there are still thousands of members who chose to keep paying their membership,” says, Joyce Tompkins, Executive Director for the Keith Family YMCA, located in University. “Because they want to see the Y in their community when the pandemic ends, so we have a lot of gracious, generous members who have continued to pay their membership dues even though they couldn’t access all of the facilities like they used to.”
Even though the doors are open, Tompkins said membership is down, with no New Year’s boost in sight.
“We’ve lost about 50% of our membership base because of the pandemic and that’s a huge hit for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte because 90-percent of our revenue comes from membership fees and our program fees,” she said.
Indoor fitness facilities across North Carolina were allowed to reopen in September. Under current restrictions, they must limit capacity to 30-percent, and everyone inside must wear a mask, even while exercising.
Tompkins said the YMCA’s have also added additional safety measures including prescreening all visitors and taking temperature checks upon entry. She said they’ve also added sanitation stations and have updated their indoor air filtration systems.
In December, the North Carolina Alliance of YMCAs took a look at COVID trends across their 89 fitness center locations. They say out of 1.2 million visits between Sept. 4 and Nov. 30, they saw 57 positive cases, with zero clusters.
Tompkins said during the pandemic some Charlotte-area YMCA locations have also moved exercise equipment outside, and some offer classes outdoors as well as virtually.
“We’re here as an option, but also realize that we won’t see that rush that we’re typically used to seeing,” said Tompkins.