Saline Rec Center Emerges From Pandemic For Thirtieth Anniversary
Saline’s Recreation Center just endured the worst year in its history, but it has survived. And it seems that it is entering its thirtieth year all the stronger for it.
“I’ve had a couple of people say ‘It feels a bit more normal now,’” Saline Parks and Recreations Director Carla Scruggs said.
The Rec Center had to shut down like any other gym during the lock downs imposed by Lansing to stem the flow of Coronavirus cases that overwhelmed emergency rooms around the world last year. But when Scruggs, pictured, sat outside with the Sun Times News one warm sunny afternoon in the middle of June, the place was starting to bustle again both with people working out indoors and pouring out into the well kept sports fields outside.
Now that the restrictions are ending more and more as more of the population gets vaccinated, Scruggs said that people are coming back as much for the sense of community as for the sake of coming back to the community as for the ability to exercise.
“What I’ve seen now is that a lot of people who are still working from home [and] we’re seeing people who we didn’t see before because now they’re not stuck at work. They can come by and take a swim at 10:30 in the morning, because they have more flexibility because they’re working remotely,” Scruggs said. “I would imagine, now that … people are not going to go back to work at big office facilities.“
Scruggs predicts that the result will be that the old, predictable patterns of when the facility would be crowded or empty because of the traditional nine to five work day will become a thing of the past, as the schedule of who works when becomes more and more individualized for more and more people.
People returning to the facility will find a building deep cleaned, freshly repainted and rearranged to allow the taxpayer funded facility to maintain social distancing between exercise equipment as a precaution.
“Until just recently, all patrons were required to wear a mask. That was pretty strictly enforced by Rec Center staff. Now, if you’re fully vaccinated, you may go without a mask,” Mayor Brian Marl said.
A lot of the building is being rearranged in fact. Self-screening tests for coronavirus symptoms are still done at the front door at the city has invested in more hand sanitizer than ever before around the building.
The city has also established a Recreation Center Sustainability Task Force, which will start meeting over the summer to plot the way forward to rebuild membership and get back to profitability. Saline City Council decided to spend the majority of its federal relief money from the American Rescue Plan to stabilize the Recreation Center. Whether or not it remains viable in the long run will depend largely on whether people come back to utilize the facility in large enough numbers.
“The [American] Recovery Act funds have been a real life safer. The use of those funds to get us through this fiscal year … are going to go a long way in terms of setting a strong foundation for the Rec Center to move on moving forward,” City Manager Colleen O’Toole said. “The next step in that is to make sure we’re doing our part administratively … to make people feel welcomed back, to build programs that people enjoy and feel safe participating in, and really listen to the visitors to our Rec Center about what we need to do and what next steps need to take place.”
City officials are currently focusing on getting back to normal, but there are long term expansion plans; albeit informal and abstract ones. Scruggs said she would like to eventually expand the overall footprint of the building, when asked what her plans for the next decade were. While none of the city’s plans have been formally proposed yet, Scruggs is planning on eventually expanding the lobby, free weight areas and installing a larger indoor walking track; as well as introducing a dedicated stretching area and personal training studio.