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Nelson Fitness Center reopens with COVID-19 safety protocols

Staff and students share experiences of returning to the facility

The Jonathan Nelson ’77 Fitness Center reopened Tuesday and welcomed members of the Brown community who are approved to be on campus this fall. When the athletic complex was forced to close in March along with the rest of the University, many students and staff who remained in Providence were left without a readily accessible indoor space for exercise. The return of more students for the fall semester coupled with cooler weather exacerbated the need for indoor workout resources.

Students must maintain six feet of social distance and wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at all times while inside the building, said Fitness and Wellness Coordinator Kelly Sorge. To enter the fitness center, students must book a one-hour reservation slot and use socially distanced markers to wait outside the building until they are admitted. Only 20 students are allowed inside the facility at one time and locker rooms are not available. Students must also clean exercise equipment before and after use. 

“We put a lot of thought into this,” Sorge said. “We have the best possible plan in place to ensure the safety of everyone.” 

Facility Operations Manager and Aquatics Coordinator Ray Grant said that the fitness center’s opening demonstrates a focus on reopening slowly to maximize safety. Although pool access and group fitness classes have not yet returned to the facility, Grant said he is satisfied with the current state of the fitness center. “This was a great first step in getting the students back in the building and giving them an opportunity to focus on their physical health,” he said.

Rebecca Zuo ’21 said she “felt comfortable” exercising in the facility on opening day. “The equipment and machines were spaced out and available. It was quite nice to be around fewer people in the gym,” Zuo said.

For staff and students at the Nelson Fitness Center, the first day back in business was seen as a success. “We had a very enthusiastic response … many of our reservation slots were either full or almost full. There was a lot of excitement from the students … and we are just as excited to be back as they are,” Sorge said.

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