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The coronavirus pandemic has been an ongoing challenge for the community recreation industry and continues to create obstacles for YMCAs, JCCs and rec centers across the country.

On June 29, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced an executive order to slow the spread of COVID-19 by requiring fitness facilities to close their doors once again. One organization being directly impacted by the order — which is in effect until at least July 27 — is the YMCA of Southern Arizona, with 31 locations in the Tucson, Arizona area.

Kurtis Dawson, the president and CEO of the Southern Arizona Y, has had many takeaways from the pandemic, one of those being the learning opportunity to focus on the things his team and he can control versus those they cannot.

“We have used the second shutdown as an opportunity to provide more virtual fitness classes for our members,” said Dawson. “The shutdown is enabling us to make improvements to our facilities while our members are away. Since we are not fully operational, we had to lay off staff, whom we look forward to welcoming back when we reopen again.” The Martin Pear JCC in Scottsdale, Arizona is also utilizing the second shutdown as an opportunity to make changes and grow.

“We are continuing to work on enhancing our COVID processes, researching information and sharing information with industry partners,” said Jay J. Jacobs, the CEO of the Martin Pear JCC. “We take this as an opportunity to deep clean and disinfectant the facility, as well as take care of maintenance projects with no interruption to members.”

The JCC has pivoted their operations to cater to the order by offering a number of outdoor fitness classes (weather permitting), increasing the number of aquatics classes offered, offering increased virtual and live streaming programs on J at Home, and more. “If the shutdown continues past July 27, we are looking at the possibility of creating an outdoor weight room to bring more services to members,” added Jacobs.

Enduring a second shutdown can not only be frustrating, but can also reignite fear in both your members and staff. “Be prepared that the second shutdown may be worse for your team both emotionally and mentally,” said Dawson. “Our staff worked tirelessly to ensure the YMCA operated at a superlative level. When we learned about the second shutdown, it was frustrating to know we would have to return to stage one again, when we were already at stage three in our reopening process.”

Though frustrating, Dawson said they will be able to survive this second shutdown because they are debt free and have reserves in place for this type of circumstance. Dawson reiterated the shutdown is an opportunity to “right size” your organization so you can expand and grow when you are fully operational again.

If your facility is faced with a second shutdown, Jacobs advises to not dwell on the closure, but rather focus on the reopening.

“The minute you close, begin thinking about how to reopen your facility, improved and stronger,” said Jacobs. “Develop and implement your plan with guidance from not only local and state leaders, but also your own medical taskforce, like the one the Martin Pear JCC established. Communicate regularly to your members/customers about your plans and progress. Share what you know and be transparent with the unknowns during this fluid time.”

Though a second closure is a scary thought for many facilities, Jacobs said if your staff focuses on what they can do rather than what they cannot, you can get through the difficult times. “Be positive,” he advised. “If you continue to provide a safe and clean facility, your members will support you. They will be back.”

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is a staff writer for Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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