The lights have been off for weeks at Access Fitness in Great Falls. It hasn’t been like that at the 24/7 fitness center in decades. When will they come back on? It’s hard to say. Gyms were not part of Phase 1 in Governor Bullock’s three-phase reopening plan.
There’s no firm date for the start of Phase 2, and Access Fitness manager Greg Hall said very soon, it’ll be hard for the business to pay its bills. “We're one of those operations that just kind of stay open. And come feast or famine, we're still there. Holidays or not, we're still there,” Hall said. “But this is very, very unexpected.”
Physical Therapy Down Under and Fitness Center in Havre is already on the brink. Co-owner Kristi Parrotte said that the physical therapy side of the business is open because it’s essential, but the steep decline in sign-ups and membership dues has the business teetering on bankruptcy.
“We were really expecting that we were going to be in phase one....,” Parrotte said. “And I was feeling so lost. I was feeling like everything that I had worked for the last 20 years of my life before was going to be dissolved because we were going to have to wait who knows how long till phase two could start.”
Parotte argues that fitness centers exist to keep people in good health. She wonders why bars and casinos can be open with groups of 10 or less but gyms can’t.
“Because you tell me… does the casino have a spray bottle at each station with disinfectants in it that they're going to use to spray off the machines after somebody touches it?” Parrotte said.
On the other hand, Hall said in his gym, safety measures would be difficult to control. "It’s the adult playground you might say, where people come and go, and they move everywhere. And the thing about if you're really working out right in the gym, you're all over the place, you're touching weights,” Hall said. “You're just everywhere. It's hard to lock a person down to a table, or to a casino machine or to an area of the store. It's everywhere.”
So what can gyms do? Parrotte said Down Under will be moving some equipment and classes outside, following the state’s “outdoor recreation” guidelines. Meanwhile, Access Fitness is renovating and waiting for that elusive Phase 2 date.”
“Would I like to know? Yeah, I'd also like to know the lotto numbers, you know?” Hall said. “We're just going to keep plodding along, keep cleaning, keep the place ready to go. And when the bell rings, our doors will be open and hopefully everything will work out fine for all of us.”