Among the businesses shuttered by COVID public health orders last spring were gyms. The restrictions hit three Powell fitness centers hard, right as they were trying to get a foothold in …
Among the businesses shuttered by COVID public health orders last spring were gyms. The restrictions hit three Powell fitness centers hard, right as they were trying to get a foothold in town.
Club Dauntless owner Stacy Bair had opened the Lovell-based gym’s new Powell location in November 2019.
Jess Campbell, co-owner of Freedom Fitness, renovated the old Classic Lanes bowling alley on Clark Street to serve as a new centralized location. The day Freedom Fitness planned to reopen, the governor’s health orders went into effect.
Anytime Fitness’ owners spent months renovating the former Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall, also on Clark Street. They were just about to open the business’s doors for the first time when the order came down.
Nationwide, the impact on the industry has been devastating. According to a fitness lobby group, the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association, 15% of gyms had permanently closed by last fall. Many of the larger brands had filed for bankruptcy, including Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness.
Keeping the community going
Despite the hardship the lockdowns caused, Powell was lucky that none of its gyms have closed their doors.
Campbell of Freedom Fitness said she didn’t wait until the governor gave the go-ahead to reopen. With all the anxiety and isolation during those early days of the pandemic, the emotional wellness of her members became a priority.
“We took the stance that, hey, we’re here to help people. We threw our doors open, we turned up the music, and we kept our community going,” Campbell said.
During the brief time they were closed, she had members renting out gym equipment, and she converted some classes into an online video format. She made that work for a while before she just reopened without permission.
“I said, ‘Enough’s enough. I’m going to make a living.’ I had gym members reaching out to me, for their mental health,” Campbell said.
The gym instituted some social distancing protocols when it reopened, and had a sterilization routine during those early days, when no one was sure if the virus was spreading through surface contact. Campbell said the cleaning requirements didn’t really inconvenience members, as they really weren’t out of the ordinary. “We have high-end standards for cleaning anyway,” Campbell said.
Since opening at the new downtown location, Campbell said, their memberships are more solid than ever. The gym offers a lot of youth programs, and being located near Powell Middle School and closer to Powell High School has made it easy for students to get to the gym. Freedom Fitness also has a lot of loyal members from its former location.
“My gym people are my gym people, and I love them to death,” Campbell said.
Bair, of Club Dauntless, said there was some hesitancy in the early days when the gyms were allowed to reopen, but much of that has disappeared.
“It’s really behind us now. The energy in the gym is on high again,” Bair said.
The business started out in Lovell, and Powell residents regularly made the trip to Lovell to use those facilities. Club Dauntless has since opened locations in Powell and Greybull, and it’s going to have a new location in Cody as well.
Bair said the pandemic was hard, but it’s given people a perspective on the importance of health that they perhaps didn’t have before the virus swept across the globe.
“People in our community have a renewed appreciation for their health,” Bair said.
As the pandemic wanes, people are taking a look at other health risks, she explained, which is placing a priority on improving cardiovascular health.
“The feeling in the gym is better now than pre-COVID. People are excited to be able to go out and do something good for their health,” Bair said.
This is especially true of Club Dauntless’ senior members. The club has a program called Prime Fit, which caters to that population. Bair was worried that seniors’ participation would drop after the reopening; being in the highest risk group for developing complications from COVID, they might not be as comfortable returning to the gym. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case.
“That program is thriving,” Bair said. “We have more seniors in the gym than ever. Of all the things that Dauntless does, that’s the one thing that really grips at my heart.”
With things going well for fitness in Powell, she’s putting energy into the new facility in Cody. There aren’t a lot of details about the new facility as it’s still in the design phase. While the pandemic is becoming a thing of the past, there are new challenges to face with respect to construction materials, as prices have skyrocketed. Bair said the hike isn’t killing the plans, but it does make an opening date hard to pin down. The hope is that it’ll happen sometime this year.
Memberships at Club Dauntless are good at all locations, so when the Cody gym opens, it will offer one more option for members to stay fit.