New-look gyms and swimming pools finally set to reopen in Shropshire - but not all of them
Fitness fans can get their fix again as some Shropshire leisure centres reopen today, while some remain shut because of difficulties enforcing social distancing.
Visitors may have to get used to one-way systems and new safety guidelines, while cleaning schedules are also being ramped up and numbers will be restricted.
The Shropshire Community Leisure Trust, which runs five fitness centres in the county, has opened the doors at the Shrewsbury Sports Village and Oswestry Leisure Centre.
It won't be back to normal yet though, as the sites take steps to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Gym and workout classes are only available in pre-booked slots, customers will have to wash at home as shower facilities are closed. People using the swimming pool will be expected to keep their distance from others.
The leisure trust's contract manager Chris Stanbrook said: "We want our customers and employees to feel safe when they’re at our centre. Before we closed, we’d already introduced social distancing measures such as smaller class sizes, and more space between equipment.
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“Reassuring our members and employees that coming to their centre is a safe thing to do has always been our number one reopening priority.
"People know how important a strong immune system is in fighting back against Covid-19, but it’s up to us to ensure we provide a safe place for customers to get their fitness fix, and a place colleagues can feel comfortable working in.
“We will not be reopening Market Drayton Swimming & Fitness Centre, The Quarry and Whitchurch Swimming Pool, a decision made in conjunction with the council. At those centres, we have identified issues around our ability to enforce current social distancing and safety guidelines, which include strict rules around air ventilation.
“Once we are confident all safety considerations have been met, we will look to reopen Market Drayton Swimming & Fitness Centre, The Quarry and Whitchurch Swimming Pool.”
To learn more about the rules at the sites, visit shropshireleisurecentres.com.
Meanwhile Shropshire Council has chosen to keep its five leisure sites shut - SpArC in Bishop’s Castle, Church Stretton Sports Centre, Much Wenlock Leisure Centre, Roman Road Sports Centre in Shrewsbury and Idsall Sports Centre - citing "a lot of technical issues that will take longer to solve".
Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council cabinet member for culture, leisure, waste and communications, said: "The latest guidance provided by the government has thrown up some challenges for the leisure sector as a whole, not just for Shropshire Council so it may take a little longer to reopen facilities than we would have hoped.
“We want our customers and staff to feel safe when we reopen. A number of measures will be in place including social distancing, enhanced cleaning and hand sanitiser will be made available.
"When our leisure centres are ready to reopen, they will look a little different and no doubt feel a bit strange."
Telford Hotel & Golf Resort is among the venues opening its facilities today – which include a pool, gym, health club and spa – to guests and the public again.
Peter Nye, the hotel’s general manager, said: “We look forward to welcoming old friends and new faces in the coming weeks and months.
“At this time our focus is on guaranteeing total safety for our guests and our staff. We will naturally comply with all Government proposals, including limiting the number of people using the facility at any one time by using a timed booking system.
“We will also be reducing class sizes and allowing sufficient time between each class to avoid groups waiting outside during changeover.”
The venue has spaced out equipment and taken some out of service to maintain social distancing.
The cleaning regime has been intensified and hand sanitisers are available at all stations. Floors have been clearly marked for increased safety and initially the pool will be restricted to just 12 swimmers and the gym to 14 guests.
Every aspect of the cleaning programme will also be independently audited by an industry expert. The 18-hole golf course has been successfully in operation for some time and the hotel has already reopened its rooms to guests.
“We have spent a huge amount of time researching and considering every aspect of safety,” said Mr Nye.
“In particular we are asking visitors to the gym and pool to arrive ready to participate and then to go to their rooms or home to shower and change to reduce congestion in our changing areas. We encourage golfers to use their cars for changing shoes.”
Abraham Darby Sports & Leisure Centre, part of Telford & Wrekin Council’s Aspirations group, has been busy preparing, putting new measures in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Elsewhere in the borough, Wellington Civic & Leisure Centre, Oakengates Leisure Centre, Newport Swimming Pool and Horsehay Village Golf Centre will also be reopening their doors today to customers who have pre-booked online for an activity.
Swimming pools within the centres will also reopen but the activity must be pre-booked online or over the phone. Timetables have been altered to manage numbers in the pools.
Additional reporting by Lisa O'Brien