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Connecticut Gyms Form Alliance To Push For More Aid

One year after Gov. Ned Lamont ordered gyms closed for three months during the pandemic, a group of gym owners have come together to push for more state and federal funding to help them stay open. 

Greta Wagner, executive director of Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford, started the Connecticut chapter of the Fitness Alliance about a month ago to advocate for more than 50,000 fitness professionals statewide.

“Thirty percent of our industry has basically been shuttered and will not reopen,” said Wagner. “A lot of those are the smaller local-run clubs, not the franchises, not the chains.” 

Gyms weren’t among the industries listed for specific aid in the recently passed $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill. Now the Connecticut Alliance and others formed across the country want the federal government to pass the GYMS Act, a $30 billion fund that would grant gym owners up to 45% of 2019 gross revenue, capped at $20 million.

“It probably won’t be until September, October or the end of the year where the normalcy comes back and membership base can come back and the client base can come back,” said Wagner.

She said that’s too long a wait for some gyms that are behind on rent. Ed Fogarty, owner of Club 24 Concept Gyms, said that’s one of the reasons he joined the alliance. 

“The scary thing is, I have talked to literally hundreds of gym owners for the past year, and of all the gym owners across the country, I don't know one who from the time this started that has paid rent straight through at 100 percent,” he said.

Fogarty, who has seven gym locations across the state, said he fears what the industry could look like if  owners don’t get financial relief. 

“Without some real help from the government, we could be in for a pretty bad reckoning summer or fall this year when landlords finally say, ‘COVID is done, we need to get paid,’” said Fogarty. 

Both Wagner and Fogarty said the emphasis on staying healthy to avoid severe cases of the virus hasn’t translated to assistance for the places that help make that happen. 

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