28 Aug 2020

Re-Opening Shad Fitness: Q+A with General Manager Sue LaRose

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Green wall in the Tim Day Fitness Room in Shad Hall
Photo: Hensley Carrasco

by Shona Simkin

We last spoke with Shad General Manager Sue LaRose in the spring after Shad closed amid COVID-19 restrictions. Now, with students moving in and Shad recently re-opened, we caught up with her to ask about all of the many changes that she and her team have put into place for the community’s health and safety.

What was the lead-up for re-opening Shad?
We participated in a lot of different webinars within our fitness industry group, and weekly meetings with Optum, our parent company, about re-opening protocols, the disinfectants that we needed, requirements for physical distancing, and making sure we knew all the correct procedures. We also took into account guidance from the state of Massachusetts, city of Boston, and the CDC to ensure we were in compliance with various protocols outlined by each. It took us about a week to get everything ready, and we had our first soft open on July 27. For a few weeks we were just open to residential students and essential workers on campus, but now we’re open to all members.

Signs display what machines are unnavailable for use
Photo: Hensley Carrasco

What are some of the new procedures?
One of the most important changes is that you have to make an appointment to access the facility and tennis courts. Members make a 45-minute reservation, and after the 45 minutes we announce that it’s time to exit the facility and we disinfect and clean the area for the next person who comes in at the top of the hour. Everyone has to wear a face covering, even when exercising. There are only 20 people at a time allowed in the facility at a time. Throughout Shad Fitness you’ll notice directional signs to help with physical distancing and flow; exiting and entering. We taped off a lot of high-touchpoint areas such as water fountains, and we’ve removed a lot of smaller equipment. Throughout the facility, we need to maintain a 14-foot physical distance between machines/equipment. We’ve taped off and disabled a lot of machines to enforce that distancing, and moved some machines to the basketball court to space people out. The locker rooms are now really only spaces for changing, as showers, steam and sauna rooms, and whirlpools are closed. To enforce the six-foot distancing rule, there are only a few available lockers per bay. Most members are arriving dressed to work out, so there aren’t many people in the locker rooms right now. Our hours are also decreased; we’re now open Monday through Friday only, 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. This will be reassessed in the fall.

Some machines have been placed in the gym to help promote social distancing
Photo: Hensley Carrasco

What about group fitness classes?
Those are still online for now, but we’re looking into offering a few pop-up classes and some classes outside. Because of the 14-foot distancing regulation we can only have six to eight people in the group fitness studios, so we might open up the basketball courts to classes as well. It will probably take longer for basketball and indoor soccer to come back, so we’re looking into utilizing those spaces.

Equipment is cleaned after every session
Photo: Hensley Carrasco

Have your roles shifted with all of the new protocols?
We’re all doing a lot more cleaning! We do have some personal training available, with six feet of distance between you and the trainer, but most of us are focused on cleaning and disinfecting. We are excited that we were able to launch a new membership management system during shutdown that has helped us to be more efficient—especially with reserving time slots—with our services, so our staff has been spending time getting trained on the new system and finding ways to incorporate it into our operation. Members can use the system to make a reservation for the facility, schedule a personal training session, reserve a tennis court, and renew their membership.

Some workout areas have been taped off in order to maintain physical distancing between attendees
Photo: Hensley Carrasco

What's it like to be back on campus?
It's great! It's really nice to be back and see people in real life. It’s such a beautiful campus and I work with such a great group of people—it's so good to be working directly with them again. We're all still getting used to it and figuring out all the new protocols, but it's great, and it will be good when we can welcome the broader community back to campus. I’m really grateful for how hard everyone is working—they all worked really hard at home, and now they’re bringing that back on campus.

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