[Editor's Note: 8:30 a.m. ET, June 1, 2020: The story has been updated with specifics on cities in which 24 Hour has opened clubs so far as well as clarification that certain operational changes are temporary.]
Things look different at 24 Hour Fitness locations these days. The San Ramon, California-based company, which closed all of its 446 clubs around the country on March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has reopened some clubs in Texas, Florida and Hawaii, the three states in which the company operates where gyms are allowed to reopen as of May 31. In Texas, the company has reopened some clubs in Dallas and Houston with more reopening in those cities soon. In Florida, selected clubs in Miami have reopened, and in Hawaii selected clubs have reopened.
The company also has clubs that are not yet open in California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
Gone for now are the finger scan check-in systems. Instead, members use the 24 Hour Fitness 24GO app to check in.
Gone for now are members running on treadmills side by side. Instead, cardio equipment is spaced at least six feet apart or certain machines are blocked off to ensure physical distancing.
Gone for now are random workout times. Instead, members must use the 24GO app to reserve a 60-minute workout session (with 30-minute closures to clean in between the 60-minute workout sessions) so the clubs can assure social distancing standards.
Gone for now are the use of basketball courts for basketball. Instead, courts are being used for workout space.
Also gone for now is the use of the Kids’ Clubs, wet areas and drinking fountains. Gone is the ability to bring guests.
For now, the clubs are open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Members are encouraged to bring their own water bottles, towels, mats and masks. New signage notifies members of social distancing guidelines, safety protocols, and closure of spaces and equipment to ensure proper distancing.
Members of still-closed clubs are encouraged to use the 24GO app for more than 1,500 workouts or the 24 Hour Fitness YouTube channel for workouts.
“24 Hour Fitness has never wavered in its conviction that our top priority is always the health and safety of club members, team members and guests,” the company shared in a statement to Club Industry. “The COVID-19 environment has put physical and mental health at the forefront of everyone’s wellbeing and we are pleased to learn that it is also a shared interest of our state and federal government leaders during this challenging time in our lives.”
While working on all of these changes to reopen their clubs safely, the executive team at 24 Hour Fitness also has been rumored to be working on how to resolve financial issues the company has been experiencing since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reported last week that 24 Hour Fitness will announce a Chapter 11 reorganization plan within the coming weeks.
24 Hour, which is owned by private-equity firm AEA Investors and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, reportedly is seeking a bankruptcy loan of $200 million and is talking to landlords about closing some clubs as part of the reorganization, which it is working on with Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, according to sources in the Wall Street Journal article.
The company has more than $1.3 billion in debt with bonds that are due in 2022 and had tried to rework the debt load prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Bloomberg article.
Plans are to keep the clubs operating during the Chapter 11 process, according to the Bloomberg article, which also stated that the process would swap debt for equity and give control to lenders.
When asked about a possible bankruptcy filing, 24 Hour sent Club Industry the following statement:
“We are considering a broad range of options to ensure the long-term sustainability and success of 24 Hour Fitness and we are not going to comment publicly on our strategic plans. We look forward to continuing the reopening of our clubs as we are operationally prepared and as state and local governments and public health agencies indicate it is safe to do so. We are fortunate to have a strong brand with millions of loyal members—over one million of whom are actively using our 24GO personalized fitness app and 24GO LIVE, our interactive 24 Hour Fitness YouTube channel, to stay fit during this challenging time.”