As more Vermonters become vaccinated and begin to return to normalcy in the wake of easing COVID-19 restrictions, it has been left to many businesses to determine their next steps. This includes the recreation and fitness sectors, where many membership-based gyms and clubs were forced to overhaul their policies over the past 15 months. Many mandated reservations, established room capacities and were forced to cancel fitness classes and other services. With the state on the cusp of reopening fully, local gyms are eager to follow suit and embrace the upcoming season. Among them are the Bridges Resort and Tennis Club and the Sugarbush Health and Recreation Center (SHaRC) in Warren.
Because the Bridges Resort and Tennis Club has a strong client base and managed to maintain their staff throughout the pandemic, the club has managed to continue operations relatively smoothly. “We’re looking to move forward into a great summer,” said gym manager Al Holzgruber, but he emphasized waiting for the all-clear from the state before further relaxing restrictions. As Holzgruber noted, almost all the Bridges’ employees and members have received their vaccination, which has led to a more relaxed environment. While the mask mandate has been removed for those who are vaccinated, gym-goers will continue to see room limits, reservations and some reduced services. As for fitness classes which are currently unavailable, those too will be “reevaluated” when the state reopens fully.
At SHaRC employees noted a similar environment. As restrictions ease, they no longer mandate reservations for the weight room, cardio room or pools. Although they require masks for the unvaccinated, the vast majority of their clients have also received their shots, according to manager Pierce Kiniry. Like the Bridges, this has led to a more relaxed, open environment for gym-goers. But until full reopening, services such as the adventure zone, rock gym, showers, saunas, steam rooms and other events remained closed to visitors. Kiniry too discussed how SHaRC benefits from a regular client base, which has allowed for a more comfortable transition as restrictions ease. She too is looking forward to the upcoming season. “It’s been nice now that the outdoor pool is open and people are coming back in,” she said.
But as Vermont draws ever closer to the 80% vaccination threshold put forward by Governor Phil Scott, these establishments will have to consider how to approach the post-pandemic season and reinstitute the services, events, and programs derailed by COVID-19. With so many eager to dive into summer after a full year-plus of mask-wearing, social-distancing and isolation, it stands to be a strong season for the industry more widely.