A rally in downtown Campbell River was held in support of fitness facilities reopening — at the same time the province announced changes to its COVID-19 health restrictions.
The rally, held on Jan. 18 at Robert Ostler Park, was attended by about 150 people who congregated in and around the shelter in the park. Speaking at it was Lonnie Tkach, owner of Anytime Fitness Campbell River, which he and his wife started about five-and-a-half years ago.
“The event was just for everybody to feel confident that we’re there to support them, and to remember there’s a lot of collateral damages — people who have lost their jobs, their businesses and the people who are suffering from stress,” said Tkach in an interview.
“These aren’t people who are looking to be rebellious — there are just a lot of really concerned citizens.”
Around 1:30 p.m. that day — about the same time the rally started — Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, announced in a press conference the province would allow indoor fitness and dance to reopen on Jan. 20, but at reduced capacity. As part of these new rules, maximum capacity is based on providing seven square metres of floor space per person, up to a limit of 25 people.
Tkach said fitness gyms being open is important for people to have an outlet so they can take care of their mental health.
“Gyms are a solution,” he said. “We’re not the problem.”
Throughout the pandemic, Campbell River’s fitness business community has banded together, he said. During the rally, Tkach invited about a dozen other local fitness and martial arts operators to join him at the front of the crowd.
“We’re supporting each other,” he said. “I’m making sure that the other gym owners know what their legal rights are.”
Jodey Ingalls, founder of Pure Martial Arts and Fitness in Campbell River, said over the past two years his 25-year-old business has faced “struggles and struggles.”
“Luckily, we don’t hold a lot of debt, so we’re able to just make it by,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my landlords, longtime Campbell River people, working with me, we may have been one of those closing their doors.”
Ingalls’ studio could previously operate at 50 per cent capacity before the latest round of restrictions. But operating at reduced capacity can frustrate clients, he said.
“How long do you keep a membership, knowing that every time you try to go, you might not be able to go in?” he said. “I see many people saying, ‘I’m just going to have to stop training.’”
Having access to the martial arts studio makes a difference in people’s lives, he said.
“About 95 per cent of the people that train with us deal with some sort of anxiety or health issue,” he said. “We’re trying to structure things to help people deal with that.”