Conor Mortimer: Ben Dunne's negativity is not helping gyms

Conor Mortimer will be ready. When Maynooth’s Glenroyal Hotel gym and leisure centre reopens on July 20, its manager will have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed.
Conor Mortimer: Ben Dunne's negativity is not helping gyms

Conor Mortimer at Maynooth’s Glenroyal Hotel gym and leisure centre. Fitness has gone through the roof in Ireland in the last five to 10 years but he claims that, from the mental health aspect, the Government needs to show support for the facilities and businesses to get back up to the levels they were before the Covid-19 crisis.
Conor Mortimer at Maynooth’s Glenroyal Hotel gym and leisure centre. Fitness has gone through the roof in Ireland in the last five to 10 years but he claims that, from the mental health aspect, the Government needs to show support for the facilities and businesses to get back up to the levels they were before the Covid-19 crisis.

Conor Mortimer will be ready. When Maynooth’s Glenroyal Hotel gym and leisure centre reopens on July 20, its manager will have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed.

That’s not to say that when those doors swing open again the uncertainty that has defined most of the last 13 weeks since the facilities closed will just flitter away. Business as usual will take on a new meaning and the former Mayo star appreciates members will have to warm to a different experience.

All he can do is retain as much of what went before at the same time ensure members’ safety. Numbers both for general use and classes will obviously be limited. There will be a booking system with the gym closed every 90 minutes to deep clean all areas as per the Covid-19 guidelines.

“You will come in, have your temperature taken when you come into reception and be physically checked in for contract tracing purposes,” he explains. “Masks and gloves will be optional for members, there will Covid officers on the floor all of the time to make sure that these rules are enforced. It’s the new normal. The reality of it is some people will get used to it and some won’t but that’s the way of this new world at the moment.”

In the initial phase, the saunas, steam rooms and jacuzzis will be off limits. Changing rooms can only be used by members after a swim - gym users must come ready to work out and leave directly after they have completed their session.

Both the gym and pool area are already populated by signage with machines deemed out of use to comply with the social distancing restriction of two metres. For the same purpose, sections around the weights area have also been cordoned off.

Much of that work was done well in advance of advice being imparted from official sources. Mortimer has found the lack of discussion about gyms and leisure facilities in the easing of restrictions quite unsettling.

“The most surprising thing is that it’s not being talked about. Not one question is being asked about gyms and leisure facilities, which are far more beneficial than other sectors of the service industry but they obviously have strong lobbyists to get these things over the hill.

“The last five to 10 years, fitness has gone through the roof in Ireland. It’s great for their mental health and the amount of training for health benefits being done is incredible. There has to be more substance in what is going to be done to encourage that in the wake of the crisis particularly from the Government in relation to support for the facilities and businesses to get back up to the levels where they were.”

He doesn’t believe gym industry figureheads like Ben Dunne have shown much leadership. “The likes of Ben Dunne when they’re talking, it’s doomsday effectively. He has been doing this for x amount of years and pretty much the same thing the whole way through. Whereas now he has to change his model and business plan and when major change is required, that obviously creates a bit of friction.

“I don’t think it’s great to see him talking negatively in papers about how leisure clubs will operate in the future. All will be different and I can assure you ours will be one of the safest facilities around. He was saying a few weeks ago that he wasn’t opening anything and this week he’s saying he’s opening one in Blanchardstown in September whilst subtly adding he is increasing his prices. I don’t think that noise is necessary.”

The Glenroyal Hotel will keep their prices and opening hours the same for the foreseeable future, while those who have prepaid memberships will receive credit for the period the gym and centre has been closed. Those who pay by direct debit had their payments frozen and they won’t restart until a month after the gym reopens.

“There will be six to eight weeks where there will be little income but it is something we will have to overcome closer,” he says. “I think it’s unfair to increase prices straight away. You have to see how the business runs, how successful it will be and work from there.

“It’s a bit like waiting for an All-Ireland now. We have the preparation and work done. Soon it will be time to play!”

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