HADDON TWP. – When Billy Olson started doing business with Planet Fitness, he did so with a specific mission in mind.
“The critical objective is to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Olson, who owns 18 Planet Fitness clubs in New Jersey.
The gym, Olson says, is a way for many people to “take care of mental and physical stress.”
That has become increasingly difficult in the state with Gov. Phil Murphy yet to give the green light for gyms to open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olson, though, has found a way to get creative with one of his clubs.
He opened his Haddon Township Planet Fitness for outdoor use on Friday, creating a tented 6,000-square-foot space complete with a variety of cardio equipment, weight machines, dumbbells and benches.
Olson said the idea came together pretty quickly with support from the town. The Haddon Township location will be his only gym to see this transformation, however.
“What makes this spot unique is it’s a free-standing building, so it’s ideally situated compared to my other assets across the state,” Olson said. “Typically you see these gyms in a shopping center or some other shared space.”
The outdoor training area is set up in the parking lot of the Planet Fitness at 49 Haddon Ave. The gym was formerly the Westmont Theatre.
Olson said the outdoor gym is following strict sanitation measures — including touchless check-in, increased cleaning of equipment, socially-distanced equipment, directional signage and more.
Meanwhile, all of his Planet Fitness locations have been busy prepping for the eventual reopening of gyms indoors.
“We’re beyond ready,” Olson said. “It’s already in our DNA to be clean, clean, clean. Now there’s a 95-page handbook on top of that and there will be plenty of protocols and safety measures in place so that people can enjoy a world-class workout.”
In the meantime, anyone with a Planet Fitness membership can use the Haddon Township location, according to Olson.
Even those without a membership can stop by, he said.
On top of that, Olson is offering free access to the outdoor facility for healthcare workers and first responders.
The open-air gym can accommodate around 80 people, Olson said.
“It’s been hard financially — we’ve had to furlough people — it’s been hard psychologically watching our members be shut out,” Olson said. “It’s difficult emotionally; there’s never been a playbook for something like this. So if we can make even one person better and grow from this, that’s worth it.”
Access to the gym’s bathrooms are available, however guests will not have use of the locker room or showers.
The Haddon Township Planet Fitness is open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
A South Jersey native, Anthony Coppola has handled a variety of beats at The Daily Journal, including award-winning work in sports and business coverage. He joined the staff in 2008. Contact him at [email protected] and follow on Twitter @AVCoppola. Please support local journalism with a subscription to The Daily Journal.
This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Westmont Planet Fitness opens for outdoor training