PORT HAWKESBURY: A re-branded fitness centre will be opening under new ownership in the new year.

On Dec. 7, the Town of Port Hawkesbury confirmed that BODY `N SOUL+ will take over the fitness centre at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre in early January.

Jens Blecker, owner of BODY `N SOUL+ said discussions started in June, and after delays due to COVID-19, the final negotiations took place in October, then the request for proposals were issued, and they found out late last month.

“It took very long,” Blecker recalled. “The delay was basically about the tender or RFP and that took a couple of months before the decision was made. Then we had an interview where we would tell them our vision, and then we came to the point where a decision was made.”

Currently, Blecker said an interior designer is working to make the facility cozier, they are installing new software since the gym is running on the town’s network, the new owners are switching over television and internet accounts, they are looking for employees, and are preparing the machines and lockers for the opening.

According to a press release sent from the town, the new goals of the new owners include catering to users of all ages and abilities, creating a health and fitness centre in cooperation with members, and the town wants a greater emphasis on getting and staying healthy.

Although they are in the process of setting up the gym, the new owner said their intent is to provide more services and programs.

“We are looking right now to get new instructors, personal trainers,” Blecker said. “We talked to the current employees who want to increase the offering of programs.”

The town said recreation and relaxation will also play a major role.

Blecker said one of the racquetball courts can be turned into a wellness area to offer yoga for seniors and new attractions like water jet massages.

The bundling of fitness options, which includes access to public skates, public swims and classes will be priced similar to what is offered now, the town said, noting that for those looking for a more complete gym experience, new enhanced gym membership packages will be developed.

Blecker said they hope to offer similar prices.

“We keep the basic membership with the services that the people had before at the same price level. But we will offer different stages,” he said. “With the different stages, for example, you get a certain amount of hours with a personal trainer, or the tanning beds.”

To adhere to provincial health guidelines, the gym will be adjusting its floor plan to ensure social distancing can be maintained during classes, the town stated, noting that staff will continue to implement increased hygiene protocols throughout the day, in addition to professional cleaning each night.

“The main cleaning is still provided by the town,” Blecker pointed out. “We just need to take care of in between cleaning and the locker rooms.”

The town said it will honour all existing gym memberships under the new management plan. In addition, interested persons can now register under: bnsoul@jayb-s.com.

Because they plan to re-open in January, Blecker said there will be a quick turn-around.

“We don’t have a lot of time in between because they don’t stop the operation. We get probably four days in between,” he added.

Earlier this year, users and town officials were shocked to learn about the sudden departure of the Cape Breton YMCA as the gym’s operator.

The YMCA Board of Directors voted on January 28, to close their Port Hawkesbury branch. The vote was made following an extensive review of the branch’s financial standing and increasing operational expenses.

The town said it would keep it open since it owns the bulk of the equipment, and because of its concern for the health of residents.

Late in February, the gym facility re-opened under the management of town staff.

Members were eligible for a fitness pass with allowed access to the gym equipment, attend fitness classes, take part in public swims at the Strait Area Pool, lace up for public skates at the civic centre, and to participate in basketball, pickle ball, and badminton at the SAERC gym.

While it was closed, the fitness centre underwent a spring cleaning and was spruced up with new paint and a newly waxed floor.

Then on Aug. 4, the fitness centre re-opened after being closed due to COVID-19. All memberships were extended from the Mar. 15 closure and new memberships were available.