Local YMCA readies to reopen in September

The YMCA located on Wright Crescent in Kingston. Photo by Lucas Mulder.

Over the next month and a half, residents can expect to see a flurry of activity at 100 Wright Crescent, as staff at the local YMCA work to reopen the facility.

The staff at the YMCA of Eastern Ontario are readying to open the facility on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, and have been given the go ahead to do so as the Kingston region moves into Stage Three of the Provinicial Framework for Reopening, which begins on Friday, Jul. 17, 2020.

“We’re really thrilled. We’ve been running emergency childcare services, we’ve been opening up our childcare operations, we’ve been managing programs and services online and virtually, working at food banks, and calling our members and our vulnerable populations to check in,” said Rob Adams, CEO of the YMCA of Eastern Ontario.

“But to be able to make this announcement, you know, maybe there’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel! And so we can take a few weeks to prepare properly and safely, because that’s our first priority – to ensure that when people come back they feel safe and secure while at the same time enjoying all the services that the Y offers.”

Adams said the staff with the Y have already been hard at work putting some things in place in terms of moving things around within their spaces to allow for physical distancing, and installing Plexiglas around the front desk. They are now moving into implementing way-finding markers, but, more importantly, taking the time between now and the beginning of September to ensure their staff are brought back to work slowly to allow for proper training.

“The staff themselves have their own personal lives they’ve got to get sorted, too, before coming back. So, to call them back to quickly would be unfair. And also, because we’ve been closed since March, we have to work with Public Health and our other stakeholders to ensure that everything opens safely. We have pools to open, and that’s the sort of thing that takes a little bit more time,” Adams expressed.

“We think we’ve done things very well through this pandemic in terms of taking our time, staying connected, and so we don’t want this last hurdle to be too rushed.”

Adams explained that, on top of safety, there are other reasons to bring staff back and reopen at a steady rate.

“Unfortunately, this pandemic has had an impact on everything, from charities to businesses to small business, so we had an all staff town hall before this public announcement and I shared with them that this opening is going to be a phased approach. And so not everybody will come back at the same time, because we’re not sure how many members will come back all at once,” he said.

Adams noted that the YMCA’s operating hours will be altered somewhat at the beginning, and that, as they move through their opening stages, they are hopeful they’ll be able to open more hours and offer more programming, thus bringing more staff back to work.

“But to say that this hasn’t or won’t have a financial impact on the YMCA wouldn’t be a fair statement. It has and it will. It’s going to be very important for us to operate very, very fiscally responsibly,” he said.

Adams said that those who have been using the YMCA on Wright Crescent for years will certainly notice some changes – but he underlined that the core mission and values of the Y will not change. Some of the equipment has been removed to allow for physical distancing, and class sizes are likely to be smaller, as they follow the directives of Public Health and the province.

“But what won’t change is the experience people have coming to the Y. It’s been made very clear that people don’t want to have their experience micromanaged, so we’re not going to expect people to book their visit with us,” Adams explained, noting that the YMCA of Eastern Ontario did a survey of their clients with a good sample size responding to help shape their plans for reopening.

“People are going to have free reign of when they come in, but when they come in, there may be capacity issues. Hopefully, and part of the reason why we’re delaying our opening to September, is that maybe the capacity size of 50 may be expanded in the next six weeks he said,” he said.

Programming for the reopening is not finalized yet, but Adams said they plan to provide weekly updates to their members, and programs will be available when they open on September 1.

“So more details will follow, but we do anticipate having a drop-in fitness class, an aquatic schedule, and maybe some small group kid’s activities,” Adams said.

And, as Kingston is currently under a mandatory masking policy, those using the facilities at the Y will need to wear a mask in common areas, such as hallways and change rooms. People will not be required to wear masks when exercising, swimming, or participating in fitness classes.

The hours of operation will also change as time goes on and staff are able to gauge the number of people attending the Y to engage in programming and services, Adams explained. For now, there will be a two-hour midday window where the Y will be closed to allow for extra deep cleaning. The Y will also be open for hours that are in high demand, including weekends and evenings, but people should expect some wait times due to capacity, and be prepared to expect changes in operational hours as the reopening progresses.

Adams advises the public to stay tuned to the Y’s social media channels and website for updates between now and September 1.

And, while the facility on Wright Crescent might look a little different inside since it was forced to close on Sunday, Mar. 15, 2020 due to the pandemic, the very thing that draws people to the YMCA will remain, Adams expressed.

“People can expect is physical changes in terms of social distancing and class sizes. What will stay the same is the same welcoming environment that people have come to appreciate about the Y, and its mission,” he said.

The YMCA location in Brockville will also open on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020.

For questions about membership, people can contact:

Brockville: [email protected]

Kingston: [email protected]

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