COVID-19 and space constraints have dealt a one-two punch to the Red Deer Boxing Club.
The club has been seeking a larger location outside the downtown since last February to attract more new members — and now to conform to pandemic distancing protocols.
While $70,000 of grants were recently obtained for renovations and equipment purchases, no larger, affordable space has yet been found, said general manager Jessica Ryan.
She thought an agreement had recently been reached with a north-side landlord. But Ryan said the property owner raised the proposed rent just after the club had obtained $50,000 from the province, $15,000 from the city and $5,000 from Kinsmen — even though this money can’t be used for operational expenses.
“It’s been very frustrating,” said Ryan.
Without a new space to move into and expand club programming, the grant money will have to be returned.
On top of everything else, the pandemic has necessitated several government-ordered shutdowns of fitness facilities, including the boxing club.
The latest closure has lasted for the past couple of weeks, ever since Red Deer was placed on a provincial watch list on Nov. 13 due to rising coronavirus cases.
Ryan said the club had more than 100 members, age six to 106, before the closure. She wonders how many will return when the club is allowed to reopen.
So far, Ryan has budgeted $3,000 a month for rent of a larger facility (compared to the $1,400 it now pays to lease space downstairs from the John Howard Society).
She’s hoping for about 4,500 square feet of space, compared to the current 2,600 square feet.
Ryan said this will not only allow for more membership growth, but will provide for adequate spacing between people training on boxing bags.
When the club was allowed to operate this summer, pandemic rules stipulated that one punching bag be used, per person.
Ryan has been working with City of Red Deer officials to find a suitable space, which might require a zoning change.
She noted the club is also willing to treat any landlord as a sponsor, erecting promotional business signs at sporting events, etc.
Anyone who has a lead on rental space can call her at 403-877-3507.