NORTH BAY -- After a $3 million revenue loss across the association, the YMCA in North Bay and Sudbury are set to reopen its doors to members on Tuesday.

“It’s been a long time that we’ve been waiting for this,” said YMCA North Bay branch manager Jay Mater. “It’s been many, many months since we’ve had members in the building and we’re very much looking forward to having people return.”

Both facilities have been closed for about six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though gyms got the green light to reopen in phase 3, the YMCA decided to hold off until the end of summer.

“To make sure the day campers had a fun and safe rest of their summer, we decided to open once their day camp season was done,” said Kendra MacIsaac, general manager of health, fitness and aquatics for YMCA Northeastern Ontario.

“We really wanted to make sure that our health and safety for our members, our staff and volunteers were our highest priority. We really took our time to read the ministry guidelines. We’ve met with both Public Health & Sudbury District as well as North Bay Health Unit, and we also had Workplace Safety North come in and do a bit of a facility walk through to make sure that we’ve really made sure that we’re meeting those highest standards in terms of safety.”

Hopeful and positive

Members have been able to walk into the facilities this week to ask questions and see how it is set up. However, Sept. 8 is the first day they will be able to bring their gym bags and workout again.

“I am hopeful and I am positive that it’s going to be a great opening and that our members are just going to be so excited to see us and we’re so excited to see them,” said MacIsaac. “We can’t wait for Tuesday.”

Although everyone is eager to get back to the facility, there will be some noticeable differences.

“Our staff have been in here for the last few weeks and working very hard,” said Mater. “We’ve been putting up our signage, moving equipment around to make sure that we can maintain physical distancing when members do return. It’s been really all hands on deck. People’s roles have changed and everyone’s been pitching in.”

The safety protocols are similar in both North Bay and Sudbury.

“We’ve reduced our hours,” said MacIsaac. “Right now we’re going to open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. We are closing in the middle of the day to do an enhanced cleaning between 1:30 and 3 to make sure that we’re ready for people coming in after work. We’re also going to have some of our facility staff stationed at all opening hours right on our fitness floor to ensure that members are cleaning equipment before and after use.”

Extra sanitization stations have also been added, making it easier for people to access cleaning supplies and assigned spaces for members during fitness classes.

Special hours for seniors

Nicole Beattie, vice-president of philanthropy, marketing and communications, said they are trying to reserve 9-11 a.m. for members who are 55 years and older and anyone with a compromised immune system.

Although fitness centres are reopening on Sept. 8, youth programs and saunas will remain closed. However in North Bay, the aquatics centre is set to reopen on Sept. 14.

“Working closely with our public health unit and inspectors to make sure that the precautions we have in place are in fact going to keep members safe,” said Mater. “In the pool we’re fortunate that the water is chlorinated. So we do have directions around the pool so members will have a certain flow of traffic that they should expect to follow. Our saunas will be closed because it’s an enclosed space. But once you’re in the pool, the lanes are a little wider then they’d typically be. So typically it’s six lanes, we’ve removed the middle one so it’s three wide lanes so people can space out even in the water.”

The pool is able to reopen because it is a municipally owned centre. However, for now, the Sudbury location’s pool will remained close due to financial limitations.

Expected to wear masks

YMCA members are expected to wear masks while entering and exiting the facility as well as in the common areas.

“We do ask that they put their mask on when they come in, when they check in at membership services, when they go to the change rooms – which are open and available as well as showers,” said MacIsaac. “Then they get to their area where they’re going to be preforming their workout, whether it’s in the fitness centre or in a fitness class they will wear a mask, once they get on a treadmill or get ready to participate in a Zumba class, then they will take their mask off, store it safely in a Ziploc bag and then put it on when they go to leave that area.”

Although excited to welcome members back, Beattie said there was a time when the YMCA was questioning whether they’d be able to reopen after COVID.

“The YMCA has been closed for the last six months and we saw quite a bit of financial loss,” said Beattie. “So we realized a revenue loss of $3 million across the association.”

A fundraising campaign is set to launch in the fall for both North Bay and Sudbury to help raise $2 million to help to YMCA moving forward.

“Thankfully we have support and we’ve had some donors that have already come forward making generous large fits, but we’ve only gotten started so we really do need the communities support.”

More details on the fundraising campaign will be made available the week of Sept. 14.