Facing criticism, Jackson County revises plan, allowing gyms to reopen next week

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BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — Jackson County has revised part of its reopening plan. The move comes after uproar from fitness center owners.

Gyms are a place you go to improve your health. So owners of Anytime Fitness in Blue Springs were not happy when Jackson County said they couldn’t open in Phase One of the county’s recovery plan, which started Monday.

They took matters into their own hands, and it appears to have worked.

Anytime Fitness at Highway 40 and Highway 7 in Blue Springs just opened about a year ago. The owners were just starting to make headway when the coronavirus forced the gym to close.

“We were finally at a place where we could hire some staff and go home and get a break and get that all going — and then this came,” owner Rachel Wattenbarger said.

RELATED: With Jackson County reopening, Lee’s Summit businesses make changes to meet challenges

During the quarantine, they’ve been offering virtual classes and training sessions.

Cancer survivor Aubree Holmes said it’s been crucial to staying healthy and strong.

“I had finally gotten to the point where I was coming into the gym consistently, and then the shutdown happened and I didn’t want to lose my momentum” Holmes said.

But without regular membership fees coming in and bills piling up, the gym was holding onto hope Jackson County would let it reopen on May 11 with other businesses.

When gyms weren’t included in the first phase, and they weren’t given a clear reopening date, Wattenbarger took to social media.

“I am asking you guys to help me rattle cages,” she said in a Facebook video.

Support poured in. Friends, clients and even total strangers reached out and wrote to Jackson County Executive Frank White’s office.

“When they opened other services where people are in far closer proximity than we would be to our patrons, it didn’t make any sense to me,” Wattenbarger said. “I don’t want those businesses to close down. I think we should all be able to open with guidelines.”

Her pleas reached Missouri State Rep. Jeff Coleman and Jackson County Legislator Jeanie Lauer.

On Wednesday, Wattenbarger said her prayers were answered.

That afternoon, Lauer told FOX4 the county executive’s office was actively revising the reopening plan, and Jackson County gyms should be able to reopen May 18.

Wednesday night, the county made the announcement, saying gyms can reopen next week with Phase One occupancy limits. 

Jackson County also amended the plan to allow places of worship to open with the same occupancy limits as nonessential businesses.

More details are expected from the county Thursday. 

For now, the owners of Anytime Fitness Blue Springs said they’re planning to do a deep clean of the entire facility before reopening. They also plan to shut off half the cardio equipment and will have additional markings to help enforce social distancing.

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