Trying to survive through COVID
My name is Kathy Wagner and I am the owner of Mariner Square Athletic Club. MSAC has been individually owned (is not a franchise or have the financial benefits of corporate backing) and family operated going on 42 beautiful years and remains a pillar of the Alameda/Oakland and surrounding communities. Throughout the past 4 decades our club has united so many people from all walks of life with the common goals of fitness, emotional health and well-being. We strive to maintain a safe and welcoming space for all regardless of race, religion, beliefs or how one identifies. We are proud of our diverse staff and membership base that includes members of every community with individuals, families, teens, corporate accounts and seniors (30% of our membership base - who heavily rely on the club to maintain their mobility and sunny dispositions). These people depend on our club and services to keep the other areas of their lives running smoothly.
To say this past year has been a rough one would be an understatement. In addition to the general and heavy feeling of disappointing our community, being closed more than we were allowed to be open has been a huge financial hit - one that we may not be able to recover from. Although the fitness industry has been severely affected, the financial assistance through the government agencies has not been offered as it has to other industries (recreation, restaurants, hospitality and travel), the gyms and fitness centers have been left to fend for themselves. It is time for us to ask for help.
Prior to COVID, we were a full service health club with a staff of over 100 and more than 2,500 members. Then COVID hit and the negative impact it had on our industry was worse than we could have ever imagined. We were forced by the state and the county to close our doors for most of the year. Due to the closures, fear of indoor spaces when we were finally allowed to reopen, the state/county shelter in place mandates and our large percentage of senior members we have lost over 75% of our memberships.
MSAC had managed to secure a PPP loan, pay all of the employees for 8 weeks while the business was closed and were barely able to make it through the first closure. We had hoped upon reopening that we would be able to survive the shutdown. Unfortunately, only weeks later, the State and County put us back into another lockdown. Despite being forced to close again, our bank decided not to work with us on getting through the 2nd shutdown and obtaining a second PPP loan, even though they knew we could not operate legally according to the state guidelines. We are now behind on the mortgage due to the drastic reduction in monthly dues.
We recently built a new website and released new membership types-in hopes that as vaccinations ramp up, we will be revived. Our members are slowly returning but not at a rate that will get us out of immediate debt.
We need your help Bay Area!!!
The negative impact of COVID on Mariner Square Athletic Club
In March of 2020, Coronavirus changed the world as we know it. The club was shut down by the state of California for what was supposed to be two weeks. These couple of weeks turned into months. We were able to keep 100% of our staff paid for the first two months of the pandemic while we were completely shut down. Unfortunately, as time progressed and no end of the lock-down was in sight, we had to lay off our part time staff. MSAC has managed to keep the full-time staff on payroll for the duration of the pandemic.
During this time, we were disappointed that we were not allowed to safely operate despite all the new safety measures we had worked so hard to get in place. We installed sneeze guards, re-arranged the entire club for social distancing including double the recommended distance between machines. We upgraded our air conditioning system with Merv 13 filters. We also purchased sanitizing foggers, UV light wands and new signage throughout the club in preparation for everyone’s safe return.
In addition, with the safety, social distancing and the health & fitness of our community in mind, we converted many racquetball courts into private Fitness Suites. Each Fitness Suite comes equipped with cardio equipment, weights and other fitness items. They are rentable by one to two persons in the same family or social bubble and provide a fully functioning workout space that is safe and separate from common areas and sanitized between users. Our Fitness Suites are quickly becoming a popular, revolutionary way to maintain health during a global pandemic.
Even with our new safety measures, we have lost almost 2,000 of our members due to closures and exposure concerns. This loss of revenue and the refusal of our bank to work with us through the 2nd shutdown caused the club to fall behind on the mortgage payments.
This news is devastating as it makes us ineligible for a second round of the PPP loan, which would have brought the mortgage current and saved the business. During this time, I have used money from my own savings to make payroll for all the full-time staff that remained. Instead of hopes and preparation for retirement, I am now doing all I can to keep the club active for the staff, members, and community. With vaccinations on the rise we do anticipate a slow return to normalcy. I know it will be an uphill battle due to the pandemics overall effect on the fitness industry.
Our hope and goal is to continue serving the community as we have for the past four decades. We understand the health benefits that fitness can bring to people both physically and mentally. We also believe that fitness will play a tremendous role for many people both physically and mentally in recovering from this pandemic and we are ready to help them.
Mariner Square Athletic Club History
In 1981, I was able to purchase Supreme Courts of Alameda and I turned the business into Mariner Square Athletic Club. At that time, MSAC consisted of 16 racquetball courts, a snack bar and eight employees.
Over the years, I have tried to keep up with the ever-changing fitness needs of the community. In the late 1980’s while negotiating a new lease I was able to obtain an “Option to Purchase” the building and property. At that time an indoor swimming pool was built, and the facility expanded into a full service health club. We eventually expanded to have active programming in Martial Arts, Yoga, Pilates and dozens of aerobic and aquatic based classes.
Our love of community has allowed us to use our influence over the years to actively support dozens of local schools and organizations that give back, like Meals on Wheels, Red Cross, Alameda Food Bank, our local Schools, Police and Fire departments and St. Vincent's. We host year-round shoe & clothing donations and annual drives for food and gifts for those less fortunate during the holidays and even sponsor memberships for low-income athletes. Many of these organizations have come to depend on this relationship and we never imagined having to let them down.
Our club has always been a place of community where members and staff treat each other as family. It has always been that place you can come to de-stress, workout and see some friendly faces in a comfortable environment where everybody really does know your name.
It has been a tumultuous year of doubt and uncertainty for many of us. It’s a great honor to have such a long-standing, respected business in Alameda, CA. Part of our goal is to continue providing employment to take care of our staff and their families. This is our last stand and I am hopeful and praying that community assistance may be the answer to the MIRACLE we need.
On behalf of myself and the staff of Mariner Square Athletic Club, we thank you for taking the time to read this and wish you a safe and healthy year.
- Kendra Meuser
- Maggie Fukuda
- Larry Wadford
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