At James Madison University (JMU), University Recreation (UREC) reopened July 13 on a limited basis to pilot three different reopening models for three weeks, with assessment after each to make modifications and improve safety measures.
One of the first modifications includes reduced capacity. Steve Bobbitt, the associate director for Programming at JMU UREC, said his team is using Innosoft Fusion for entry and exit control, pre-registration for building entry, and for surveys sent to participants after each session to gain feedback on modifications.
One of the largest feedback concerns Bobbitt is hearing regards mask regulations. Currently, masks are mandated for the state of Virginia and while inside the UREC building, but not while exercising. “What we’re learning is some people are really comfortable with coming in and being around other people if they don’t have their masks on,” said Bobbitt. “And other people are not, so we want to get both sides.”
Additionally, building capacity is 250, but within a 300,000-square-foot building, Bobbitt said it’s hard to visually notice how many people are in different areas of the space. To modify, he said they started their first reopening pilot by requiring pre-registration for five specific areas within the building: fitness, informal courts for sports like basketball, pool area, bouldering wall and Group X on courts.
In the second week, staff tested general building reservations by time. For example, they tried two hours at a time, with open blocks twice a day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Bobbitt said from survey feedback, some people wanted to work out longer, so they modified their next pilot to address that concern.
In week three, the UREC building was open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with 30-minute entry windows by registration. Patrons could enter the building during that window at any time and stay for the duration of their workout. Registration included the fitness center, cardio equipment, running track, walking track, bouldering wall, lap swimming, use of multi-purpose pool, basketball, volleyball and racquet sports.
Bobbitt shared plans for the fall include utilizing outdoor spaces and parks with continued access control, as well as incorporating survey feedback and data professional staff have gathered by being on the floor and watching patrons in order to help prepare for larger numbers.
“We’re going to try our best to eliminate having people wait in line outside the building,” said Bobbitt. “My advice is if you have access to an outdoor fitness areas, consider how to best use it. We’re going to try to do more Group X outside and try to think outside the box of how we can keep people active without necessarily having them under our roof the same way they normally are.”
Lastly, UREC staff plan to keep monitoring feedback to come up with a final reopening plan. Major decisions will include mask-wearing and potentially requiring it with strength training, as well as capacity monitoring with continued registration requirements. But overall, Bobbitt shared the feedback has been positive and most are just happy to be back and working out again.
“We’re seeing most people actually like the idea they can pre-register because they know they’ve got a spot,” he said. “Depending on what school you’re at and how busy your facilities are, it can be a potential bonus.”