‘It’s a slow process’: Farmington area exercise facilities reopen

Six months after closing their doors to slow the spread of COVID-19, Farmington area gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, skating rinks, and indoor pools got the green light last week to reopen at 25 percent capacity.

State guidelines released Wednesday include keeping attendance records, configuring equipment for social distancing, reducing indoor class sizes, mandated masks, and disinfecting equipment after each use.

A slow start

At Fitness 19 in the Downtown Farmington Center, the road back has had a slow start as members test their comfort levels with indoor exercise. General Manager Cole McGahan said no more than 10 people were in the gym at any one time during the first few days.

“They want to feel comfortable, and we respect and understand that,” he said, adding members are welcome to call and check on numbers before a workout.

Fitness 19 downtown Farmington
Fitness 19 general manager Cole McGahan stands next to a banner that greets guests at the downtown Farmington gym. 

Fitness 19 has moved to a touch-less check-in system and offers a touchless hand sanitizer dispenser at the door. Bottles of sanitizer around the gym allow clients to spray down equipment after use. Every other cardio machine is blocked off, to give people extra space in an area where they’re breathing more heavily.

McGahan said a children’s room has been closed, and the people who typically staff it have been cleaning in the evening hours. The gym has not had trouble finding staff; someone picked up an employment application on opening day.

“It’s a slow process,” he said, “but it will be safe…It’s gonna take time, and we have to be patient with people being sensitive. We’re just here, and we want to help people.”

Outdoors to indoors

Liz Persitz and James McLaughlan, owners of Five Lakes Crossfit, started holding classes online after the March COVID closure and eventually moved outdoors.

“Honestly, people love it,” Persitz said. “We were only rained out maybe twice… There was a lot of carting equipment in and out, but no one’s complained.”

While they made things work through the summer, the couple got nervous as the closure stretched through August. Michigan’s weather isn’t typically conducive to outdoor classes in October and November. But they kept their anxieties and feelings to themselves.

“James and I from the very beginning decided we would never be the people to start a ‘complain train’,” Persitz said. “We tried to set that example.”

Their positive attitude has paid off, she added. “No one has complained since any of this has happened… Everyone has been super supportive to us and to each other. Everyone’s been patient with each other.”

The Five Lakes facility at 24269 Indoplex Circle in Farmington Hills has 7,000 square feet, with 16 stations, each in a 144-square-foot space. Areas are taped off and allow for plenty of passing room.

As an extra safety measure, equipment has been sprayed with MicroShield 360, a year-long protection from pathogens. Surfaces self-sanitize 20 minutes after they’ve been touched, Persitz said.

Country Lanes
An old bowling lane now serves as a bar top at Country Lanes in Farmington Hills.

Transforming during COVID

During the six-month COVID closure, Country Lanes bowling center, 30250 W. Nine Mile Rd. in Farmington Hills, underwent a physical transformation that addressed some needed repairs and made the building more safe and comfortable for bowlers.

General manager Michelle Mullen said the facility closed near the end of fall/winter bowling and decided not to charge leagues for the balance of the season.

“That was challenging for us, but it was the right thing to do,” she said. As the closure dragged on, she added, “We were really nervous because we would also lose our summer leagues, so we set our sights on fall.”

So far, the majority of leagues plan to return, Mullen said. One of their options is to play later into the spring, and the bowling center will offer short-season leagues for those who want to come back in mid-winter.

Country Lanes
Country Lanes in Farmington Hills made a number of improvements during the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Bowlers will find major improvements including an expanded lounge, where they can relax, watch TV, play Keno, or order a drink at a bar top made from an old bowling lane. The pro shop, one of the premiere spots for bowlers across the country, has also been upgraded, Mullen said.

Along with stepped up cleaning protocols, Country Lanes has installed an air filtration system for its four heating and cooling units.

“It was quite an investment,” Mullen said, “but we want to keep our employees and our guests safe.”

In addition to league play, Country Lanes is also open for drop-in bowling and private lessons. Mullen said the staff has been amazing throughout the closure, renovations, and re-opening, as have customers, who offered support via social media.

“People were telling us ‘We want our Country here. We’re behind you guys.’,” she said.

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