MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A major Twin Cities organization says three of its fitness facilities will be closing permanently, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The YCMA of the Greater Twin Cities tells WCCO it is closing its fitness and wellness centers in downtown St. Paul, Lino Lakes, and Prior Lake. Those locations had not yet reopened after the shutdown in the spring.

Sarah Berge was new to the area and a stay at home mom of three. She joined the River Valley YCMA in Prior Lake, where she had child care and group fitness classes, and found her calling.

“My kids would get up in the morning and say when are we going to the Y? When are we going to the Y?'” Berge said. “There is something about when you enter a group fitness studio and you feel the energy and you just you feed off of.”

Six years later, and she’s a fitness instructor. But last week she found out three YMCA fitness centers would not reopen.

A letter to members reads, “The impact of COVID-19 has taken its toll on our community, state, nation and world.”

“We’re at about 30 percent of what we would have seen last summer at the same time,” chief operating officer Greg Waibel said.

Close to 150 YMCA employees have been laid off. Still, 22 other location fitness centers will continue operating, and the majority of already re-oepned. The YMCA has implemented socially-distanced fitness equipment, member health screenings, and outdoor classes when possible.

“Those who feel comfortable and those who want to check it out, the common theme and response has been ‘Thank you,'” Waibel said.

Still, others worry the impact of COVID-19 will forever change access to a place to move their bodies and socialize.

“Stress is higher than ever, and exercise is something people really need and that option has been taken away from us,” Page said.

While the three fitness centers are closing, those locations will still operate other programs like daycare and meal services. YMCA officials will be gathering feedback from community members on what they would like to see fill the space to serve those communities.

Kate Raddatz

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