Like Everything Else, FitRec Will Be Different This Fall
No locker rooms available, no pickup games, and masks on are among many changes
Update, September 18: FitRec has announced that it will be open for limited informal recreation for full-time students starting September 19. Cardio machines, weights, stretching, and lap swimming are all available. Full-time students need to preregister for a workout session. Sessions are 90 minutes, and you need to bring your BU ID, a green badge on your BU Healthway app, a clean face mask, a water bottle, and a confirmed reservation. You also need to arrive dressed for your workout, as the locker room changing areas are closed. Other usage guidelines are on the reservation page.
For starters, forget about locker rooms. Show up in your gym clothes. Masks are required and physical distancing strictly enforced. And don’t expect to find a pickup game when and if the B-ball courts reopen to informal recreation—you’ll be shooting baskets by yourself.
Preparing a giant facility like the Fitness & Recreation Center to reopen during a pandemic requires lots of careful planning—and some hard decisions.
“We are asking people to come dressed and ready for their activity, use the facility for the allotted time, and exit immediately after,” says Tim Moore, executive director of FitRec, which normally serves more than 6,000 people a day at this time of year. “If you’re going through the building to get to a PE class, we have a traffic pattern set up. You’ll go in and out of certain doors. You can’t come early and hang out.”
Students with physical education and academic classes in the building returned September 2, and for the moment they’re the only ones allowed inside. FitRec staff will be assessing the numerous precautions they’ve put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That will help them prepare for the return of students for club sports and informal fitness and recreation later this month. And only sometime after that will faculty and staff be allowed back in, during limited hours.
Capacity is limited to 40 percent of normal. There are occupancy limits for every space. And you’ll need to reserve your time, even for an informal workout. There will be limits of 90 minutes for swimming and general recreation, to allow staff time for scheduled 30-minute cleaning periods. Overall hours will also be shortened.
“Everything that we do will be different,” Moore says, “as it is with I suppose every other program, every residence hall, dining hall, whatever. It will be a different experience.”
To enter FitRec you are going to need to swipe in with your BU ID and show a green badge from the Healthway portal, as well as wear a face covering. You’ll use a hand sanitizer station as soon as you enter—more than 50 have been set up. And you need to keep your mask on throughout your workout no matter what you’re doing—with the lone exception of swimming.
If you’re not registered for a class scheduled in FitRec, you will not be permitted in. And if you are registered, you’re going to get in only for that class, and once the previous class has left. Swiping IDs on entrance will also facilitate contact tracing, in case there has been a COVID exposure.
FitRec is asking people in PE classes to bring two masks, so they can put a fresh one on when they leave.
Classes will be de-densified, and physical distancing, disinfection, and personal hygiene protocols will be strictly enforced. In classroom situations they’re requiring six feet between desks, but in classes with physical activity, they have taped out 14-foot-by-14-foot boxes on the floor. Every protocol will meet, or more often, exceed state standards for fitness clubs. Some gymnasium courts will be taken over with fitness machines to allow that physical distancing.
We are asking people to come dressed and ready for their activity, use the facility for the allotted time, and exit after.
“We operate in a high-touch environment in Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance [PERD], so we are going to try to limit the amount of touch points,” Moore says. “We are going to have to sanitize or disinfect any touch points that are used, on equipment, floors, mats, machines, dumbbells, you name it. And we are going to depend on the user to be a part of that ‘cleaning community.’ Every time you touch something, you need to clean it off, before and after.”
Numerous signs and other visual aids, such as arrows on the floor, throughout FitRec will help users figure out how to navigate the new normal. Additional staff will be on the front lines cleaning, giving directions, making sure everyone is wearing their masks.
Bring a full bottle of water. The drinking fountains will be shut off, although bottle-filling stations will be available. Avoid bringing personal items as much as possible, since the locker rooms are not in use. The water to the showers has been shut off, and there is no towel service. The day lockers outside the locker rooms may become available later in the semester.
Toilets and sinks will be available for those who need them, but everyone is urged to use the facilities at home before coming to FitRec, again to encourage physical distancing and fewer surface touching.
The 34 club sports teams will likely have only no-contact practices, at best, because of course there will be no games with other schools. Travel and competition are off the table for the foreseeable pre-vaccine future. And some teams, such as the golf and equestrian teams, will not even practice because it’s necessary to travel to a golf course or a stable. And club sports participants will need that green badge on their Healthway app to participate.
Intramural sports will all be conducted remotely, using e-sports. Registration is underway here.
Cash payments have been eliminated to reduce risk of viral transmission. Payment can be made online by credit card.
Adult instruction in the areas of Aquatics, Dance, Outdoor Programs, Fitness, Mind/Body, and Sports will be unavailable until further notice, as will the BU FitWell Center at the Blackstone Community Center on West Brookline Street in Boston. In-person group exercise, in-person personal training, and all in-person private lessons are discontinued until further notice. Personal training is done online only.
Even later this fall, when it’s hoped that faculty and staff will be allowed to return, no alumni or community members will be permitted to use FitRec.
Some programs and facilities are simply shuttered until the pandemic passes: there are no performances in the Dance Theater, and the climbing wall and Sailing Pavilion are shut down. Spaces are no longer being rented out for functions, workshops, or local school events.
“We hope down the road, if everything progresses in a positive way, we are going to be able to go back and look at how we can serve the community more thoroughly,” Moore says. “But it’s going to take time. We ask people for their patience. We’d like to have all of our members back right now, but we need to do it as safely as possible.”