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Plans being put in place for reopening of leisure centres and gyms in Cambridge

An empty Parkside Pool in Cambridge on taken May 18, 2020 by Sarah MacDonald.
An empty Parkside Pool in Cambridge on taken May 18, 2020 by Sarah MacDonald.

Leisure centres are putting plans in place to be ready to open next month.

Parkside Pools and Gym, Abbey Leisure Complex, Cherry Hinton Village Leisure Centre and King’s Hedges Learner Pool are all being geared up for if the government gives the green light to welcome customers from July 4.

Better, the trading name of GLL, operates all of the above venues – and also Jesus Green Lido – and has been working on a restart schedule.

The focus has been on three key areas of the business: the swimming provision, gyms and fitness classes.

Different protocols will be in place for each section.

Daryl Emes, the GLL partnership manager for Cambridgeshire, outlined what the modelling could look like for each area.

For the gym, a one-way system will be introduced from a building’s entrance to the location where equipment and machinery will be socially distanced, staff will be on hand, and extra sanitisation stations will be provided for the public to clean down their own equipment after use.

In studio spaces for fitness classes, users will each have their own section so that they are socially distanced, and accompanying programmes will limit the amount of contact with equipment or the type of class.

“We’re having to adapt our programmes as to how we can best utilise our spaces,” said Daryl.

“One thing that we’re fairly lucky with – in Cambridge in particular but as Better as a whole – is that we tend to have larger footprints of buildings and other areas that we can utilise.

“Changing is a topical one. The thinking behind that is that if it’s the gym and classes, we’re asking people to come changed ready to exercise and then to shower at home so once they finish their exercise they would then leave.”

Swimming provision will see controlled numbers introduced, with the pools split into double lanes.

The sessions will be an hour long, but that will be from the moment of arrival at the venue to departure.

Changing will of course require a different approach for swimming.

“The current thinking is that we will be providing an element of changing,” said Daryl.

“Where people can come dressed in their costume ready to go that will obviously reduce the amount of contact time they have to have in the changing room, it will also mean they can get into their session a bit quicker.

“But we understand that there will be a need for people to get changed in that respect and then afterwards, again, we do identify that having been in the pool you will need a space in order to get changed back into clothes to leave.”

All activities will have to be pre-booked on the Better app, and the whole passage through leisure centres will be different.

“It’s everything from the customer journey from the moment you arrive that we’re having to rework and rethink about,” said Daryl. “We’re very much having to look at different entry and exit routes of getting people in and out.”

Options are also being explored on how to reopen Jesus Green Lido.

While the venue has become a place for families to take a picnic and spend the day, that will no longer be possible in the current climate.

It means that the lido will be a very different model to how it used to be, and will be focused on being a swimming provision for people to exercise and session times would need to be pre-booked.

The target date is July 4, and Better’s priority is to make sure everything is Covid-secure for customers and staff.

Daryl added: “All of our restart work and our mobilisation is working towards that date, because that’s what we need to focus on and work our protocols and everything towards. But everything will be governed by the government advice and the chief medical officer saying it is safe for people to open.”

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