BACK TO BUSINESS: Racquet Club slowly opens up after lockdown

Businesses in Yellowknife – and around the North, for that matter – have been suffering under the weight of lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Racquet Club was dormant for nearly three months and while there’s light at the end of the tunnel, it won’t be business as usual for some time yet.

Activities began to resume for the club in late May, in line with phase one of the GNWT’s Emerging Wisely plan. Outdoor workouts on the patio returned and personal training sessions could be booked.

Beyond that, it’s been a quiet time.

Karen Depew and Devin Madsen have been the club’s acting managers during the lockdown, and both said it’s been a rough ride.

“We haven’t had much income to speak of,” said Depew. “We did rent out spin bikes and we’ve had the outdoor classes return but really not much else. We had to lay off staff and cancel memberships because of the closure.”

But a curious thing happened as it pertains to the memberships: people wanted to renew them, even though they wouldn’t be able to use them.

“Several of our members got in touch with us and said that they wanted to continue,” said Madsen. “That just shows us what great members we have, even through the hard times, and it kept us positive.”
It also brought in some much-needed revenue, added Depew.

“Just incredible support from the community,” she said. “We must be doing something right.”

With phase two set to come into effect this Friday – so long as coronavirus cases don’t emerge in the NWT and chief public health officer Kami Kandola gives the green light – there will be some more wiggle room for businesses and groups to operate.

Madison Penney stretches out the legs during a cool-down following an outdoor workout on the patio at the Racquet Club on Saturday. The outdoor workouts at the club resumed on May 23.
James McCarthy/NNSL photo

The club, though, won’t be part of the second phase until at least after the National Indigenous Peoples Day holiday on June 21.

Madsen said there’s still plenty that needs to be done before the club can open the front door.

Once the facility is ready, people will notice plenty of changes.

“We’ll have a screener at the front door asking people questions about their health,” Madsen said. “We thought about having a temperature check but we decided against that.”

Everything will be open to members, who will have to scan their card at the front, and non-members, who will have to purchase either a day pass or punch pass in order to use the equipment.

Madsen said there will be no access to change rooms, the indoor lounge or the showers, and people will be directed on where to go while inside the building.

“It’s not the best way but it’s the way it has to be until things improve,” he said.

For the indoor fitness classes and the weight rooms, Depew said occupant sizes will be kept at a specific number to allow for proper distancing.

The squash courts will be back up and running when the doors open but not as normal, said Jeff Hipfner, the club’s head squash pro.

“It will be drills and conditioned games where people can stay separate,” he said. “The courts are a confined space so it’s tough to keep distance.”

There will be no league play or tournaments until things improve, he added.

Those who have been part of the outdoor workouts – including sisters Madison and Giselle Penney – seem rather satisfied with doing even that.

Madison Penney, who’s a competitive swimmer when she’s not working out on the patio, said it’s nice to be able to work out with people as opposed to on her own.

“I’ve been running a lot, I decided to start training for a half-marathon,” she said. “I’ve been having meetings with my swim team in Kelowna, B.C. every Saturday morning. Our coach has been sending us stuff to do and obviously I can’t swim in the lake but when the they open up, I’ll be out there.”

Giselle Penney will be playing softball this summer with the Yellowknife Wolverines development squad when they get started in July, so long as the volunteer base is there to get it up and running.

She said working out by herself isn’t the same because the motivation isn’t there.

“I like to pick someone and try to keep up with them but when it’s by myself, it’s tough to get motivated,” she said.

Caroline Newberry, one of the fitness instructors, was teaching a class this past Saturday at the club and she said everyone who’s been coming out since late May has been happy.

“The first week, I think I almost cried because I was so happy to see people again,” she said. “I know people were happy to see us and it was just great.”

So while the waiting game continues at the club, Madsen said he knows people will be patient.

“They’ve been waiting a long time and they want to come back, but I know they’ll want to do it properly,” he said.

This story is sponsored by Government of Northwest Territories, Industry, Tourism and Investment.

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