Al Parada, owner of Can Pro Training Centre, is hoping the provincial government will allow small fitness facilities to reopen in the next phase of Alberta’s relaunch. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer’s small fitness facilities limbering up for reopening

Al Parada has done everything in his power to stay busy.

But he’s running out of things to renovate and prepare – growing restless as a potential date to reopen his business eludes him.

Parada runs Can Pro Training Centre, a small fitness facility.

Currently, that puts him in Phase 3 of Alberta’s relaunch, well behind today’s Phase 1.

With restaurants, parks and playgrounds opening up, Parada wonders why his facility, which tends to have fewer than 20 people in it at a time, can’t reopen sooner. Especially considering B.C. has facilities such as his set to open in its second phase of the relaunch.

“We’re more of a private centre, that’s why we’re upset that we haven’t been allowed to open yet,” he said.

“If a restaurant or a salon can open up, there’s no reason we can’t.

“We have less than 20 people in our training centre at any given time. We’re not like the big-box gyms, where they have 100 people in there at one time.”

Jason MacDonald, who has owned and operated Pure Fitness Crossfit in Red Deer for 11 years, said it’s been difficult to have their doors shuttered.

Like Parada, he’s not quite sure why people can go to places such as large retail stores, yet a facility that promotes health and wellness, can’t open its doors.

He said they have close to 10,000 square feet of space in their gym, and can give about 12 people adequate room to train, while maintaining social distancing.

“We can monitor who is in our building, when they are in the building and how many people are in the building, and what they’re touching. We can adhere to the standards that have been laid out to AHS,” said MacDonald.

“It’s pretty frustrating as a small business owner, that we’ve had our doors closed for 79 days now. It’s pretty frustrating that we’re being lumped in with big-box gyms and rec centres.”

Parada cleaned his facility from top to bottom, spaced out equipment and added sanitization stations throughout the gym, and is all but ready to open when he gets the go-ahead.

Granted, he’ll still need to address some staffing matters, and need about a week to educate employees on the proper protocols. But he’s anxious, which comes with losing close to 30 per cent of his yearly profit, as he’s been closed since mid-March.

“It’s going to take us a long time to recover from this. We’ve got a good, solid program where we’re at. It helps that I own the building,” he said.

“We just have to keep pushing forward, and it is what it is. People gotta deal with it. We’re not the only ones. Lots of people are in the same situation.”

The closure at this time of year also represents a loss for Parada, who trains a number of hockey players, from pro to minor pro, and teenage athletes hoping to make the next step in their sports lives.

The offseason for those winter athletes means a steady stream of training for Parada.

“They don’t realize how they’re really killing this industry,” Parada said of the provincial government, adding he understands he’s not alone in the struggle, with plenty of other businesses hurting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of people rely on that money, especially in that March and April (time). For us, most gyms’ offseason is our busy season. May, June, July and August, where we’re training a lot of hockey players, a lot of athletes in the offseason. It really hurts.”

MacDonald has reached out to MLAs, and the premier, all in no avail, in search of an answer.

“We just want to be given an opportunity to say, ‘Look, here’s the protocols that we will adhere to. Here’s our facility, and here’s what we can do to keep everybody safe and get our doors open.’

“Really, we just haven’t been given that opportunity,” said MacDonald.

Parada has written to the Ministry of Health, outining why it should consider adding businesses like his to Phase 2. He’s not sure it will help, but with all the time on his hands, it’s about all he can do.

“There’s a little bit of work to do before you just open your doors the next day. Hopefully, when they give us the go-ahead, they’ll give us at least a week’s notice, so that we can get people booked in and get people training again,” he said.

“That’s the biggest thing: make sure everybody is comfortable in there and social distancing still. Just making sure they’re safe.”

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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Al Parada, owner of Can Pro Training Centre, is hoping the provincial government will allow small fitness facilities to reopen in the next phase of Alberta’s relaunch. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

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