THE state-of-the art gym and fitness suites at the new Andersonstown Leisure Centre are finally set to open next week.
It comes as GLL – which operates ‘Better’ leisure facilities on behalf of Belfast City Council – has announced plans for a phased re-opening of nine of Belfast’s leisure centres from Tuesday (July 14).
The plans will see the highly anticipated re-launch of Andersonstown Leisure Centre following a £25 million refurbishment.
As well as a state-of-the art gym, the new-look leisure centre includes three fitness studios, a café and outdoor pitches, along with a 25 metre pool, learner pool, indoor surf simulator and high speed pool slides. However, swimming pools and pool-based activities won’t be opening in the initial post-lockdown phase at any Belfast leisure facility.
Gareth Kirk, GLL’s Regional Director for Belfast, said the Better Leisure team are “hugely excited” to be launching on Tuesday.
“It's not the launch we'd hoped for, because we'd hoped we'd be able to do a big fanfare – and that will come – but we don't want to miss this opportunity to get people into this amazing gym,” he said.
“What we've had to do though, is make the gym Covid-secure to make sure that customers can come in and use it safely.
“In order to do that we had to put in place a booking app system so customers can download the Better UK app, they can book online in advance for the gym sessions and the fitness class sessions.
“What will be different when they arrive is that there will be queuing lines for people to get in and we'll be encouraging two metres social distancing throughout all the facilities that we operate.”
As well as new online booking system, the staff at GLL have been working hard to erect safety signage, mark out exercise areas for social distancing, and to create new cleaning stations to ensure customer safety.
Mr Kirk continued: “We were able to bring back our staff into training environment for five solid days this week to get them ready for opening to the public next week.
“The staff have been marking out all the gyms, they had been going through enhanced cleaning training to make sure they can keep the place clean. They've been going through an app testing process where they're looking at how the bookings work to make sure that we can get people through.
“It's a very controlled environment, and we've got to be safe.”
The Andersonstown facility is among nine of Belfast’s larger Better Leisure gyms that will open on Tuesday including Brook, Grove, Lisnasharragh, Olympia, Falls, Better Gym Belfast, Better Gym Connswater, and Shankill.
As Belfast slowly moves out of lockdown, Mr Kirk said that the excitement surrounding the phased re-opening will be “phenomenal” and will help encourage physical and mental wellbeing during these “difficult times”.
“The challenge we've had across the Belfast leisure centres that we operate is that we had around 200,000 visits a month, and that dropped to zero because of the lockdown,” he said.
“We'd hoped that people have been out gardening and walking the dog and exercising but in reality, like me, you might have made too many trips to the fridge and we desperately need to put that message out there that keeping fit and healthy is one of the best ways to prepare yourself and your body to make sure that you do keep safe in these difficult times.
“There’ll be very strong messages as we go into work next week, and certainly in Andersonstown Leisure Centre, which is a new facility for this area the buzz and excitement will be phenomenal.
“We think it's sensible forthis gradual opening in the coming weeks, and we've got to take that on a gradual basis.”
Andersonstown Leisure Centre Manager, Julie Bolton, said: “We really want to showcase the facilities that are open, but also to tell people about the things that we have coming.
“I think the public will be as excited as we are. It’s such a beautiful facility and it will be great for the people of the area and wider Belfast. It will be great for the local community to have a centre that they can have pride in and will enjoy coming to.”
Anyone wishing to use the facilities will need to pre-book a time slot via the Better app or website.
Equipment within gym areas will be reduced to ensure that two metres social distancing between users is maintained, while some fitness classes will be relocated to larger areas, or even, weather permitting, the open air. Staff will be adopting a new, enhanced cleaning regime, while customers will be asked to wipe down the equipment that they have used. Hand sanitiser will be available throughout leisure centre buildings.
All Better members will be given citywide access to Better-operated facilities within Belfast for the foreseeable future. Meaning members of centres that aren’t re-opening in the initial phase, such as Whiterock, Girdwood, Ozone, Ballysillan, will be able to use alternative facilities. They will also be given the option to continue to freeze their memberships as will any members who don’t feel confident returning to the centres initially or who might have health conditions that put them at higher risk of infection from Covid-19.
Check out our sneak preview of the new Andersonstown Leisure Centre: