A year unlike any other, 2020 has been anything but ordinary. While businesses continue to battle COVID-19 restrictions, the Orange County Sportsplex navigates the unexpected by exercising caution and relying on creative solutions.
Reopening their doors on June 1, Sportsplex members have taken advantage of the aquatics center and ice rink throughout the pandemic. Considered an essential service, youth camps and preschool programs were also made available. “When we first opened, we strictly [offered] the aquatics center and youth camps,” said Andrew Stock, general manager for the Orange County Sportsplex. “We felt that we could do it responsibly.” Youth figure skating and hockey camps were formatted around Centers for Disease Control guidelines, offering a safe environment for participants. At the same time, the indoor aquatics center gained popularity and kept the staff busy. “I think people who are into swim team, hockey, and figure skating were quite committed to making it work,” explained Stock. “We were basically releasing weekly reservations week by week, and we would sell out within 24 hours,” said Stock.
The Sportsplex has expanded footprint over the years, adding fitness, pickleball, basketball, and outdoor turf, all of which were closed from March to September. As COVID restrictions lessen, access to these services has resumed at limited capacity. Despite efforts to provide a safe environment, many members are choosing not to return at this time. “We’ve taken a big hit in fitness membership,” said Stock. “[The Department of Health and Human Services] said the capacity had to be 30 percent or less, and we set our restriction closer to 25 percent. We’ve seen, at max, 15-20 percent capacity.” Losing more than half of their membership base, the Sportsplex honors a fee-free cancellation and is currently waiving any rejoining dues. “I think some people are very cautious, and that’s understandable,” said Stock. Extending an invitation to members and the community, anyone can experience the Sportsplex on a trial basis. “A lot of people have come in here and realize you can do it responsibly,” said Stock. Staff retention has also been difficult. “When we closed in March, we had to furlough 99 percent of our staff,” explained Stock. “It’s been a bit of a gradual build because many people politely declined.” With some areas like the snack bar still closed, part-time employees have yet to return to work.
Afterschool programs have been a staple for the Sportsplex. As Orange County schools continue to navigate their path to reopening, Stock and his team launched the Remote Learning Academy. “We wanted to provide somewhere for parents to leave their children to do their learning,” said Stock. With various indoor and outdoor areas, children have access to numerous activities while remaining socially distanced. “We have always been about the family, fun, fitness, and all the things you get out of recreation and fitness and community,” said Stock.
Stock and the Sportsplex team plan to continue to reopen under conservative measures. “I don’t believe in pushing too hard and putting the facility and the people here at risk,” said Stock. “If it is done right, it can be safe. It takes a village, and we are fortunate to have a lot of great customers and a lot of great people in the community.”