Marshall Grange, Chaska parks and recreation director, uses his elbows to open doors as he does a walk-through of the community center.

He passes hand sanitizer stations, signs encouraging social distancing, and clearly-labeled doors marked “ENTER” and “EXIT.” Talking through a blue face mask, he follows masking tape arrows guiding people one-way around the gym, greeting employees with sanitizer spray in their gloved hands.

It’s the new normal at the Chaska Community Center, which reopened last Tuesday. Members sign up online for one-and-a-half hour workout spots, separated by 30 minutes of deep-cleaning by staff.

Front desk staff wear face masks behind plexiglass sheets. Every treadmill and weight lifting station is at least six feet apart. No-touch water fountains are a new addition. It’s all an effort to make the space safer for everyone.

“That was our No. 1 goal,” Grange said. “We need to make sure that people feel safe enough to come here, and obviously our staff need to feel the same way.”

NEW AND IMPROVED

For two months, community center staff were hard at work despite the center’s shutdown due to COVID-19. City staff said around $292,000 worth of improvements took place.

“While we were down, it was nice because this facility is going on 30 years old, and it was due for a lot of maintenance projects,” Grange said.

Grange said the most expensive change was probably wiring up cardio equipment with cables and TV functionality, which needed longer cables to accommodate social distancing.

They also redid the pool area, installed new water bottle fillers, repainted much of the building, spread staff desks throughout conference rooms, and moved all the cardio equipment from the fitness center to the gym.

“All that equipment,” Grange said, pointing to treadmills and cardio climbers, “and all of this,” nodding to the strength training area, “was all in here” — the small weight room.

“We were busy for a few months,” he said, laughing.

Now, workout equipment is spread out across the building, with cleaning stations never far away. In the weight room, Grange said part of the center’s messaging is to wear a mask when doing low-intensity exercises.

Rachel Hernandez knows what that’s like firsthand.

The Chaskan has been a member of the community center for nearly two years. She signed up for a workout slot the very first day it reopened and plans to go about five times a week.

“So far, so good,” she said of the reopening.

‘PEOPLE FEEL SAFE’

Hernandez had been running outside for the past few months while her membership was frozen with the center. Now that she’s back in action, she said things are going pretty well.

“I’ve been wearing a mask lifting so far. There’s not a lot of people there yet, so that helps,” Hernandez said. “I think it’s a great system that they have going. From what I’ve seen and done so far, I feel fine.”

Emma Snuggerud

Emma Snuggerud, guest services staff, works at the check-in counter with a mask behind protective plexiglass.

She reserves a spot online for her interval, then goes home when it’s time for staff to deeply clean. Though participation is noticeably lesser, she wonders if the influx of people going back to work will make more of a demand for evening exercisers, busying the building.

Her other worry is wintertime when the “resolutioners” come to the gym after New Year’s.

“That’s where I’m a little concerned, if they’re going to adjust their sign-up hours and things like that,” she said.

But Grange said staff are committed to upholding state standards for capacity. Only 60 people can work out at a time, and there are various areas for people to spread out. Crowding hasn’t been an issue thus far. Even the extra-cautious are coming in for a sweat session.

“We had one of our members yesterday on day one who was a self-proclaimed germaphobe that said they felt comfortable here, so I thought that was a win,” Grange said. “The thing that’s made me the most proud, I guess, is we’ve gotten a lot of feedback where people feel safe.”

And for good reason.

Staff have ramped up cleaning procedures throughout the day. Attendants have spreadsheets of who uses what equipment, which is cleaned after each use. Once sanitized, that equipment is erased off the list and ready for someone else to use.

Chaska Community Center

“Way to smile,” Marshall Grange, parks director, jokingly said of Tessa Syverson, a recreation program supervisor, as she cleans a treadmill at the Chaska Community Center.

Grange said members were encouraged to clean equipment before and after each use, but said you can never be too safe.

To limit attendees inside the building, members can book online up to three days in advance. Sign-up closes at 4 a.m. for a given day, but people can still call to see if there’s availability and walk in to register that day.

When all of this was put into place, Grange said staff called every member and walked them through how to set up online accounts. Though there was a technology learning curve, he said things are going smoother now.

“Our whole approach has been just kind of, ‘Start small and build our rhythm,’ kind of see what works,” he said.

They’ll continue team discussions and add amenities as needed, all while following state COVID guidelines. But for now, they have people getting back into the fitness rhythm of things — and safely, at that.

“It’s just nice that they’re able to figure out a way to get it back open,” Hernandez said. “You can tell they have a really good system in place to keep people safe.”

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