Four leisure centres in Chelmsford will open to customers on Monday 27 July as the country enters its next phase of lockdown easing. Riverside Leisure Centre, Chelmsford Sport and Athletics Centre, South Woodham Ferrers Leisure Centre and Dovedale Sports Centre closed on 20 March along with other centres across Britain.
Over the last few weeks, the City Council's leisure team has been working hard to get everything ready for visitors, with the emphasis on reopening safely. Staff have drawn up plans based on a wide range of guidance from the Government, industry bodies, and leisure operators already open in other countries. In order to control the number of people in each centre and to limit interactions between visitors and staff, nobody will be able to use the centres unless they have booked in advance.
All activities, including gym workouts and swimming, will have to be pre-booked and initially, customers will be limited to one session per person each day. Customers will need an ourChelmsford card to make advance bookings; there are three types of account available from the free Lite card to premium monthly memberships. Premium members can start booking their sessions from 17 July, Plus card members from 20 July, and Lite card members from 25 July.
There will be clear signage to show customers how to use each centre and sessions will be smaller than before to allow people to exercise safely and maintain social distancing. Extra hygiene measures will be in place throughout, with cleaning between each session, and all the centres will be cashless. Equipment hire has been suspended for the time being, including skate hire, and changing rooms will only be available to swimmers.
Cllr Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for Greener and Safer Chelmsford says although things will be a little different now, these measures will allow people to start doing the activities they've missed:
"Leisure centres across the country have been closed for four months to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and although necessary, this has come at a great cost to our physical and mental health. We are so pleased that people can now take part in a range of activities that boost health and wellbeing and whilst we can't go back to the way things were just yet, we'll do everything we can to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable visit."
Almost all facilities at each of the four centres will be open on 27 July, although there will be some restrictions to ensure that the sites are COVID-safe. The council's Leisure and Heritage Services Manager Jon Lyons says these measures will be constantly under review:
"We'll look at what we have in place every week and increase services wherever we can, but our main priority as we reopen is to keep our customers and staff safe. We've been in touch with bodies like UK Active, Swim England and UK Athletics to ensure that our plans are based on the very latest advice and we'll put everything you need to know on our website, so please check it before every visit us to make sure you're prepared."
If you don't yet have an ourChelmsford card and would like to sign up, go to www.chelmsford.gov.uk/ourchelmsford. The latest information about safety, sessions, and timetables at all Chelmsford City Council leisure centres can be found at www.chelmsford.gov.uk/leisure-centres.
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