The UREC plans to be open in the fall, and regulations and safety measures will be adopted to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, bringing changes to the UREC classes, capacity and features.
The UREC has been closed since March 14 following the closure of the University and will remain closed throughout the summer.
University Recreation Executive Director Laurie Braden has sat on three different panels and planning committees across the higher education collegiate recreation industry about how to reopen gyms safely. Braden said the UREC determined plans for the fall through conversations with university administration and alignment with the CDC and the WHO.
“The first thing that all of us are doing in all sectors of higher education is looking at what the CDC recommends,” Braden said.
In the fall, the UREC will operate under a reduced capacity to help with physical distancing and abide by CDC regulations, according to Braden.
“Those capacities will be determined by the state public health and CDC advises us,” Braden said. “What our capacity will be in the fall still remains to be determined.”
Braden said currently gyms are able to be open between 25-50% capacity. She said the UREC’s true facility capacity is determined through life safety plans, which are determined when buildings are designed. The staff takes 25% of that number along with activity capacity to determine their opening capacity.
As for sanitation of the facility, Braden said that the UREC already has an aggressive cleaning schedule and most UREC members clean their equipment after use. She said that even more action will be taken to increase cleanliness in the fall.
Braden said the UREC building is being cleaned over the summer, and the staff is working on virtual training for student employees when they return.
“We’re going to increase our cleaning schedule, and we’re going to ask students and users to clean their equipment before and after use,” Braden said.
The UREC uses what is called the “Disney Model” for cleaning, meaning that the gym has antimicrobial wipes, trash cans and hand sanitizers a set distance apart. This ensures that users will have the cleaning stations in view and will be more likely to clean the equipment after use. Braden said that in the fall, more cleaning supplies will be made available to users at closer distances to each other.
“In terms of our cleaning and the safety of our space, we’re going to do the absolute best job that we can to diminish the risk to people by maintaining a clean space, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that it is clean,” Braden said.
UREC staff will be required to wear masks while they are working a shift, and Braden said capacities will be managed by the staff. The UREC discourages users and staff from coming in if they are feeling sick.
“The fitness floor will be divided into five zones and each zone will have a capacity, and the student employee who works in that zone will be a physical distancing ambassador,” Braden said.
In addition to their other duties, student employees will be charged with ensuring people maintain physical distance.
Braden said the UREC will likely not have team sports in the fall, but that decision remains to be determined. She said the staff is following NATA and the NCAA guidelines, watching what pro and college sports do and following the CDC regulations regarding sports. She said the Esports program and certain singles sports will be offered.
In the fall, Braden said only bouldering will be available at the climbing wall and the top rope will not be open. Climbers will be required to wear a mask because they are so close to the wall.
“We have a protocol to disinfect all those hand-holds on a regular basis and then every night that wall will get cleaned with that antimicrobial, and then we have a schedule for changing out all the hand-holds on a regular basis,” Braden said.
For day-use lockers, Braden said the staff has already put floor tape down to encourage physical distancing in the fall. She said people will have to follow the regulations of distancing when using the lockers. Lockers will be cleaned on a regular basis and users will be asked to clean them before and after use.
The six individual changing rooms will be available, and Braden said the locker rooms will only be available for changing and restroom use. She said that could change before the fall, as the staff is still waiting on further guidance.
Classes at the UREC will look different in the fall, as well. Braden said UREC staff will continue with some of the virtual classes, while others will be moved to larger spaces for physical distancing.
“We already moved all of the cycling bikes out of the cycling studio,” Braden said. “All of those cycling bikes have been moved to one of our basketball courts so that we can physically distance those.”
Braden said yoga classes will still occur in the Mind and Body Studio, but the class capacity will be limited to 30 participants so that physical distancing can be maintained. Classes like Zumba will occur on a basketball court as opposed to the dance studio.
Braden said the UREC will not have any classes where users have to share equipment.
She encouraged students and users to stay active even if they don’t feel comfortable using the UREC facilities in the fall. Braden suggested walking the lakes or using the online UREC classes to stay active.
“There’s a lot of research that shows that those who are physically active — if they do get sick, do better,” Braden said. “I would ask people to stay as active as they can in the places they feel most comfortable.”