Steve Clark YMCA and Heskett Center add safety measures as facilities reopen 



Jack Tomlinson, an employee at the Steve Clark YMCA, wipes down a piece of workout equipment on Friday. The Y reopened last week.

As Wichita State moves into the second phase of reopening Tuesday, students who workout on campus will see new safety precautions at the Heskett and the Y. 

The Y on campus opened its doors last week along with the other nine branches in the Wichita area. The Heskett will open next Monday, when summer classes are set to start. 

Officials at both facilities have implemented changes to their daily operations in order to comply with state guidelines and try to help members feel safe.


Steve Clark YMCA

As members enter the Steve Clark YMCA, they’ll be greeted by front desk staff with masks and gloves. Signs encouraging social distancing mark the floor. 

Thanks to a new app, members can then check into the facility with their phone, rather than punching in their PIN on a keypad. 

“I think we wanted to be safe and follow the guidelines that the state was putting out,” Branch Director George Sorensen said in a phone interview with the Sunflower. “Once we got the ok, from the governor to be able to open then we wanted to make sure that we follow the guidelines and open up in a safe environment.”

The Y is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Sorensen said the Y hopes to expand those hours at a date yet to be determined. 

YMCA staff are alternating what cardio equipment is available each day, making sure the equipment in use is properly spaced out. 

“Let’s say today’s an even day so all the even equipment is able to be used and then it will switch over,” Sorensen said. “So, tomorrow the equipment that’s not used today would be used tomorrow.”

With an increased focus on sanitation, the Y is providing cleaning products and towels for members to carry around and use on equipment as they move around the facility. 

While most of the workout space is open, some areas and equipment are prohibited due to safety guidelines. The track reopened Friday. 

“We have certain pieces of equipment that we’ve taken off of the floor that would be equipment that was handled a lot,” Sorensen said. 

Members aren’t allowed in the men’s and women’s locker rooms, basketball gym, or group exercise rooms. Sorensen said he hopes to offer some exercise classes as soon as Tuesday. 

Steve Clark YMCA Branch Director George Sorensen grabs a container of disinfectant wipes from the facility's cleaning station on Friday. Members are encouraged to grab a bottle and towel to wipe down equipment before and after use.
Steve Clark YMCA Branch Director George Sorensen grabs a container of disinfectant wipes from the facility’s cleaning station on Friday. Members are encouraged to grab a bottle and towel to wipe down equipment before and after use. (DANIEL CAUDILL/THE SUNFLOWER)

Members don’t have to wear masks and/or gloves, but employees do. Employees must also undergo a wellness check before each shift. 

There is currently no limit on the number of members allowed in the Y at any given time. Sorensen said he doesn’t expect that to change. 

“It’s really more about the social distancing for us here at the Steve Clark YMCA,” he said. “With the hours that we’re open, we’ve seen a good flow of members coming in but not massive numbers coming in.”

The Y is placing reminders throughout the facility about social distancing and other guidelines for members to follow when using equipment.


The Heskett Center

As other gyms in Wichita start to open up, Director of Campus Recreation John Lee said he wants the Heskett Center to reopen so students can have a place to exercise on campus. 

“Health clubs are allowed to open up now and we get paid by student fees and we want to be available for the students, but in a safe manner, so many things are not going to open,” Lee said. “As you can probably imagine, we’re going to have safety protocols.”

The Heskett is set to be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. 

Much like the Y, the Heskett have new precautions like plexiglass and a touchless check-in to help minimize contact in the facility. 

“You can either swipe your card by yourself — we’re not going to touch it,” Lee said. “Or you can tell us your MyWSU ID number and we’ll type it in.”

The facility is not accepting cash for any transactions. 

Unlike the Y, students will be required to wear a mask at the Heskett with some exceptions. 

“When they’re in general areas, the customers will be wearing masks as well,” Lee said. “However, when they go into a workout space, let’s say like the performance studios, weight room, then they can take them off.” 

Custodial staff will clean commonly used or touched areas of the building every thirty minutes, and customers will have access to hand sanitizer. 

There will be no limit to the number of people allowed inside the Heskett, but Lee said only 15 people will be allowed in a given space to comply with the state’s mass gathering restriction. 

“I don’t think for the building we’d have a limit, because it’s so big,” he said. 

The Heskett’s gym will be open, but only badminton, walking and running will be allowed at first. Sports like basketball, volleyball and soccer will not be allowed due to safety concerns. 

“Anything that you can touch somebody else or we can’t keep you out of this six-foot situation, we’re not going to do,” he said. 

As the Heskett first starts to open, the pool will be closed. Lee said he’s hopeful the pool could reopen as soon as June 8, when Governor Laura Kelly expects the state will move into Phase 3 of its plan to reopen the economy. 

Outside basketball and futsal courts will be closed, but tennis courts will reopen.