One of the Yakima Athletic Club’s more popular activities is racquetball, played on an enclosed court.
But such activity hasn’t been allowed under the state’s restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
That’s changed now that Yakima County and the five other counties in the South Central region have entered Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, Roadmap to Recovery.
The announcement was made Sunday afternoon after the state found incorrect admissions data from Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, allowing the South Central region to enter Phase 2.
Several restrictions are lifted when a region enters Phase 2. Among them is the ability to participate in different indoor recreational activities, such as racquetball.
It’s just one more offering that Yakima Athletic Club general manager Kris Bell believes will draw members back to the gym, which had to close for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had a lot of people who wanted to play,” she said. “People will be happy about this.”
While much of the attention on Phase 2 activities has been on indoor dining, now allowed with 25% capacity, the South Central region’s entrance into Phase 2 also opens opportunities for different types of businesses that have been shut down since March.
The Yakima Athletic Club will no longer require its members to reserve time for workouts, one of the restrictions for fitness facilities under Phase 1.
Bell said reserving time to work out wasn’t ideal for members.
“The more barriers you put in front of people,” she said, the less likely they are to exercise.
Skateland, the family-owned rolling skating rink in Union Gap, will reopen for its first public session Friday. After the statewide stay-home order in March, the rink and event venue had only been open for public skating for two weekends last fall.
In Phase 2, indoor entertainment establishments such as roller skating rinks, bowling alleys and movie theaters can operate at 25% capacity or up to 200 people.
Skateland owners Kim and Connie Eisenzimmer stayed busy while the rink was shut down and renovated the building to make it more appealing for events, which had been a growing part of its business before the pandemic.
The couple has also implemented several safety measures, including a unit that checks staff and customers’ temperatures.
“We’re ready. We’ve been ready,” Connie Eisenzimmer said.
The couple credits a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan and local business grants for helping them stay afloat. The Eisenzimmers have been in regular contact with a skating rink trade association and know that other rinks have had to shut down for good.
Skateland turns 73 in July.
“We know there are other small businesses that haven’t fared as well, and that’s tragic,” Kim Eisenzimmer said.
In downtown Yakima, Erik Gomez, owner of Erik the Mercedes Kid, a Mexican eatery, didn’t hear news of the region entering Phase 2 until Monday.
“I’m going to start putting out those chairs,” Gomez said.
Just a few days earlier, Gomez posted an Instagram story letting customers know that he could not provide indoor seating because he wanted to follow state COVID-19 rules.
Many restaurants opted to offer indoor dining by opening windows and doors, creating open-air conditions.
However, Gomez didn’t want to chance breaking the rules and being issued a fine he couldn’t afford.
Gomez said being able to offer indoor dining will draw a segment of customers he hasn’t been able to attract as a takeout-only establishment.
“They can come in here and relax, eat and enjoy,” he said. “That’s what people are missing — the dining experience.”