Coronavirus: Why have sports facilities near me not reopened?

gym empty

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Leisure centres, sports courts, gyms and swimming pools have been among the most recent facilities to be allowed to reopen as lockdown restrictions eased in Scotland.

They were given the green light to resume from 31 August, two weeks earlier than had been expected.

But many facilities across Scotland are still closed. So why have they not reopened yet?

‘Significant costs’

Leisure facilities are often run by the local council or by a charitable trust. They all operate independently so have reached different decisions about how and when to reopen.

Many are not run for profit. In some cases, they say it’s just not financially viable to reopen everything in the current climate.

For example, Glasgow Life – the charity which runs Glasgow’s sports venues – has warned that millions of pounds of income which supports its services has been “wiped out” by the pandemic.

It said financial and staffing constraints meant it was simply not possible to operate all venues and services. It also warned that adapting venues to meet social distancing requirements came with “significant costs” which could impact on the sustainability of some facilities.

Money aside, some other changes can be complicated and take time to implement.

Edinburgh Leisure runs more than 30 venues across the Scottish capital.

Six will be reopening on Monday 14 September – the original date which had been set by the Scottish government before it was brought forward to 31 August.

The charity says reopening 30 venues is a “big and complex task” which involves bringing 900 staff back from furlough, many of whom will need training before starting work.

Gyms and fitness classes

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Edinburgh Leisure

In lots of areas, gyms are reopening – but you’ll be asked to book in advance and your stay may be limited to one hour.

Some gyms have moved equipment to areas with more space to allow users to social distance.

In several areas – including South Ayrshire and East Renfrewshire – spin bikes have been placed on sports courts to allow more room for classes to take place safely.

At the Citadel in South Ayrshire, gym equipment has been spread across three larger areas – including a sports court which now hosts about 15 exercise bikes.

And in East Renfrewshire, the sports hall at Barrhead Foundry is being used for fitness classes. It will be reopened for other activities in October.

Sports courts

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While gym equipment is on sports courts, they aren’t available to be booked for the likes of badminton and basketball.

Alex Meldrum, who has been campaigning for facilities to reopen and set up the Fit to Fight Covid Scotland group, said it was frustrating that those who wanted to play on the courts couldn’t get access.

“Even if the leisure centres are reopening, they’re opening for gym and fitness and not for court hire – and in a lot of cases they’re using the sports hall for spin classes and gym equipment,” he said.

He could see no reason for the delay, as all of the indoor court sports he was aware of had protocols in place to ensure play could happen safely.

Mr Meldrum warned that it was children who were missing out most, as often the gym or fitness classes weren’t open to them.

He also pointed out that sports clubs often book out school halls in the evenings – but these are also unavailable and “there’s no indication they are going to become available any time soon”.

A spokesman for South Ayrshire Council, which runs the Citadel, said it was using larger spaces to allow people to safely attend classes.

He added that the council was looking at reopening activity centres, and that it wanted to “provide the best possible services to our members while adhering to the latest government guidance”.

Swimming pools

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Kirkcudbright Swimming Pool

Running a swimming pool costs a lot of money.

The community-run pool in Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway, has found that it’s not feasible to cover its costs and abide by the coronavirus restrictions.

It did reopen – but took in less than £30 per day. The pool costs more than £700 per day to run.

It explained that in “normal times” pool activities, swimming lessons and other charitable work could cover the costs.

But under current restrictions it can’t allow enough people in to cover its operating costs.

It said that “with great sadness” the pool would be closed until the end of October, when the position would be reviewed.

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