Reopening Rec Centers: Planning for Various Phases and Scenarios

reopening phases and scenarios

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Recovery mode. That’s where the campus recreation industry is at right now.

Michael Edwards, the senior director of Campus Recreation at Georgia Tech, said their beginning thought process on thinking through reopening is based on an article by McKinsey and Company, Coronavirus: How Should Higher Education Plan for an Uncertain Future?

“It talks about three possible scenarios in the fall: 100% return to on-campus classes, 50% on-campus classes and 50% remote, and 100% remote classes,” explained Edwards. “We have divided the department into committees: program delivery, operations, facilities, staff, students and communications. Each committee is tasked at looking at their subgroup in each of the three scenarios. Basically, asking the question, ‘How will each group function under each scenario?’ We feel this will give us a broad look at things first, then allow us to drill deeper into the details and give us consistency across the department.”

Over at Virginia Tech, Ali Cross, the director of Recreational Sports, said she is currently working on details for all phases of reopening. Her assumption though is they would gradually open with limited hours and number of patrons, adding in-person programs as appropriate and expanding those as they go.

As part of the reopening planning process, she and her team have drafted five phases of opening with a plan for each that includes aspects of operations, personal prevention measures for patrons, staff prevention measures and a communication plan. The reopening phases currently are as follows:

  1. Current virtual recreation: education and engagement
  2. Limited facility hours and access
  3. Increased facility hours and access
  4. Offer limited in-person program offerings and limited reservations
    1. Consideration: group size and social distancing requirements
    2. Consideration: NCAA will impact club sports and intramural sports
  5. Increased in-person program offerings, events and reservations

“I recognize we may jump to a phase if things are going well or pull back if we need to, so these may not go in order of Phase One to Phase Five when we begin to reopen,” said Cross. “By defining the phases now, we have a working document that is ready to help us ‘pivot’ when we need to.”

While final answers have yet to be reached at Cornell University, Jen Gudaz, the senior associate director of Athletics: Physical Education and Recreation Services, said one of their advantages is having five fitness centers. “With much of the population off campus, we can open more facilities and have extra space we would not have had with a full campus,” she said.

Her team has been working on three different scenarios to open. The first is the strictest and will have the following:

  • Staff will have masks and gloves provided to them.
  • Capacity will be reduced to allow for distance. “We can’t reduce based on a percentage because our facilities are all very different and the reduction will be based on the equipment in each site and how we can keep members safe,” explained Gudaz.
  • All members will have to wear masks.
  • Equipment will be spread further apart, and some pieces will be closed. For example, many people can get outside for a bike ride — the department does bike rentals — run or walk. As such, the team is discussing moving cardio to the side and spreading weight equipment further apart.
  • Additional cleaning. “We are still working on how much, and if we will close every hour or so to do deeper cleaning, or have staff monitoring members to ensure cleaning is done properly,” shared Gudaz.
  • Keeping porous equipment off the floor. For example, some of the fitness centers’ Escape equipment may be too challenging to keep sanitary at this time.

The second scenario is based off the availability of more COVID-19 testing in the community and if students are allowed to return. The third is what will be implemented when there is more testing/and or a vaccine. It’s the stage where the school will be returning to almost normal.

All in all, there is still a lot of unknowns as campuses move forward, deciding how to reopen fitness centers.

Bonus Advice:

Cross shared several resources she has been using to determine the reopening plans. She shared them here:

Heather Hartmann
Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at

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