Local gym owners meet with Mayor Saffo to propose opening plan

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Local gym owners met with Mayor Bill Saffo to discuss reopening in phases (photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Gym owners across the state have been ready to reopen since last week when Governor Cooper announced the beginning of Phase Two, but were let down when they were excluded from the plans.

Gym owners in Wilmington met with Mayor Bill Saffo to discuss their concerns and share a plan for reopening.

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TF Fitness and Nutrition, Anytime Fitness, O2 Fitness, Hotworx, and Crest were involved in the round-table discussion.

“The hope for us is that our community can get back to fitness,” Steven Uebele said. “The thing for us is being shut down it’s not just about the physical aspect of it, it’s about the mental aspect of it. The community needs fitness. They need it for a multitude of reasons.”

Uebele owns two Anytime Fitness franchises in Wilmington and one in South Carolina.

He, along with the four other local gym owners, presented Mayor Saffo with the idea of opening in phases.

A plan similar to South Carolina’s process of reopening health and fitness clubs.

First allowing one-on-one training only, then slowly opening at 50% capacity after best practices are developed.

“We want to get back to our normal business,” Uebele said. “But if this is the way it’s going to get us back in and get to our great people in this community, then we’ll do a phased approach.”

Co-Owner of TF Fitness, Skip Lennon, agrees.

“Clubs have spent money to do all that we need to do, follow all the CDC guidelines and exceed those in most cases,” Lennon said. “So we’re ready.”

Lennon says he is concerned for his members, especially those who depend on working out to remain mentally and physically healthy.

“It’s kind of punishing the healthy at this point,” he said. “That’s the way we look at it. First Responders, the military, there’s a lot of people that need to work out. They need it for the mental and physical aspects. We’re going on 60 to 90 days in some places that people are not getting that.”

Lennon says their business could easily operate at 50% capacity if necessary.

“The population that works out is a smaller percentage of the population anyway and these are controlled environments, membership based clubs,” he said. “We can handle opening up and we’re ready.” 

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says he is going to take the plans to the governor.

“I think it’s a reasonable request. It’s the governor’s decision ultimately, but I did share with them that I would take their recommendation and their thoughts and their opinions to the governor’s office,” Saffo said. “And see if they would evaluate it and see if there was anything they could do to allow the gyms to reopen slowly.”