New Hampshire Fitness Clubs, Sports, Make Case to Re-open

Representatives of fitness clubs, amusement parks and youth baseball on Tuesday told a task force on reopening New Hampshire’s economy that they are prepared to make a variety of health and safety adjustments so they can operate during the coronavirus pandemic.

Health clubs, which have a relationship with its members, can rearrange floor plans, cordon off areas, lower group exercise participants, and stagger appointments, said Mike Benton, CEO of the Executive Health & Sports Center and owner of other facilities. Saunas, steam rooms and areas that allow contact sports such as basketball and racquetball would be closed.

Overall occupancy would be reduced by half and visits would be limited to New Hampshire members. The hope is that clubs could re-open May 18, Benton said.

Charyl Reardon, president of the White Mountains Attractions Association, suggested a “soft re-opening” of outdoor attractions that naturally provide for physical distancing requirements, like Lost River Gorge and the Polar Caves; canoe, kayak and bike rentals; standalone driving ranges and mini-golf courses; zip lines, and guided tours for ATVs. Activities would be limited by group size and just to New Hampshire residents, at first.

The next phase would allow the opening of attractions such as Canobie Lake Park, Santa’s Village and the Cog Railway, allowing for social distancing, face masks for workers and guests, more hand-washing areas, and more visible “clean teams.”

Rick Harvey, chairman of the New Hampshire American Legion Baseball Program, proposed a season starting June 20. He said players’ temperatures could be taken before a game and that face masks be worn in the dugout. But he said a number of teams haven’t yet bought accident liability insurance for the summer and are waiting for more guidance on whether children will be able to play.

“We don’t want these kids in the field to be in danger,” he said.