In careful stages, Kroc Centers begin reopening

May 11, 2020 | by Brad Rowland

Photo Credit: Chris Bailey

In careful stages, Kroc Centers begin reopening

By: David Ibata

A first step in what could be a gradually advancing, post-coronavirus return to normal took place Monday, May 4, at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Augusta, Georgia. The facility was the first of seven Kroc Centers in the Southern Territory to reopen its building.

Members have begun returning to the Kroc Center after its closing March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "It's been slow, but steady," said Major Douglas McClure, Augusta area commander and senior Kroc Center officer. "The first day was kind of tentative, but people have come every day, and things have been slowly growing. We had 51 people here Wednesday."

Augusta will be closely watched by other centers as they prepare their own re-openings, said George Burkhardt, territorial business technology project manager for the Kroc Centers. There will be ample social distancing and sanitization to ensure the safety of staff and visitors. Initially, only Kroc members are invited. Everyone will come in a certain door and have their temperature taken.

"If you have a temperature above a certain level, they're not going to let you in" – fever being one of the telltale symptoms of a COVID-19 infection, Burkhardt said. "That's to protect everybody, employees and members."

After Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-at-home order expired April 30 and the state began allowing businesses like health clubs to reopen, The Salvation Army in Augusta worked with the Richmond County, Georgia, Sheriff's Office to ensure compliance with public health sanitation and safety measures.

The Kroc Center created two-hour blocks through the day for exercise machine usage. It asks members to set up appointments online, in increments of 1 hour 45 minutes; this allows staff 15 minutes between visits to clean and sanitize areas where people had been working out.

Furniture and equipment have been rearranged to ensure six-foot separations – taking every other treadmill or elliptical out of service, for instance, or moving some machines to the main gymnasium. Other areas, like the swimming pool, group fitness rooms and the child watch space – a supervised play area where parents can leave their kids while they exercise – remain closed.

Major McClure said, "What's surprising to me is the number of what I'd define as older people coming to the Kroc Center. I think they feel comfortable, that they like what we're doing in taking the necessary steps to keep them safe."

It's hoped that the pool can soon reopen, and that the children's summer day camp program can launch toward the end of May. The 12-week camp is among the center's most popular offerings. "Right now, we're trying to see what the need level is, and whether it's doable with our current configuration," Major McClure said.

Augusta, Burkhardt said, "is doing their best to go over and above the requirements for social distancing and make sure everybody's safe."

Kroc Centers are following the lead of public officials in their jurisdictions.

“At this time, each Kroc Center will reopen in phases in response to the phases directed by their city ordinances,” said Melissa Williams, territorial Kroc marketing manager. “There are no dates in the foreseeable future as to when all programming will resume, as each location will continue with safety restrictions in terms of capacity that maintain safe distancing.”

Every center will voluntarily reduce the number of people allowed in the building at any one time, and will ask members to reserve times to visit, Williams said. Equipment has been repositioned to ensure safe distancing; hand sanitizing stations, set up; and staff, directed to wear masks and gloves.

In Greenville, South Carolina, the main building of the Kroc Center is closed, but its outdoor tennis center opened Friday, May 1, to Kroc tennis members only. They are limited to casual play and private and semi-private lessons.

Facilities will be cleaned throughout the day, and instructional equipment will be sanitized after every use, according to the publicly posted reopening guidelines. Sanitizing sprays will be used frequently by staff and available to players in restrooms, though visitors are advised to bring their own hand sanitizers and disinfectants to use on the courts. Showers and locker rooms are closed.

The Kroc Center in Memphis, Tennessee, in an email to members, announced an initial reopening Monday, May 11.

“Although we are reopening our doors, we will not be resuming programming as normal right away,” the center said. “We will adhere to 25-percent capacity restrictions, limit our program offerings and time allotments, structure time for additional cleaning, and more.”

Elsewhere, the Biloxi, Mississippi, Kroc Center may open with just its summer camp May 25, while the Hampton Roads Kroc Center in Norfolk, Virginia, is looking at a June 10 opening, Williams said. No opening dates have been announced yet for the Kroc Centers in Atlanta, Georgia, and Kerrville, Texas.

"THQ is providing any support necessary as requested by the Kroc Centers," Williams said. "We are happy to be valuable resources and helping hands as each Kroc Center navigates challenging new decisions in order to keep their staff and members safe while maintaining best practices for their business needs."

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