Local sports and fitness venues begin to resurrect as the pandemic fades


YWCA banners

Minneapolis YWCA
The YWCA has three Minneapolis locations, Downtown, Midtown and Uptown, and all were busy with activities and events. Then came the pandemic and things changed.
During the governor’s shutdown the only thing open was child care. While the mandate eliminated most sports, activities that could move to online, did so.
“Within two weeks of the governor’s shutdown mandate, we had begun offering group fitness classes through livestreaming on Zoom,” said Kelli Klein, program coordinator and fitness instructor at the YWCA. The Zoom classes were popular with members and increased into the fall of 2020, giving a chance for people to interact with instructors and, she said, a chance to see the faces of their friends.
The YW offered 25 classes a week, each with up to 60 participants. During last winter, the YWCA’s live-stream classes were averaging 2,000 check-ins each month.
When the vaccine became widely available, many restrictions were lifted but livestream fitness classes remain popular. “But now our focus is on the slow rebuilding of in-person classes,” said Klein.
The YWCA Triathlon was canceled but a smaller event, the Race against Racism 5K, originally scheduled for May, will be held on Aug 8. The pool and basketball courts are open by reservation only for non-members. Members need no reservation.
And, while youth sports are on hold, the summer youth program and Kids Day Camp are still operating, as are many adult outdoor fitness classes, free of charge and open to the public.
“The facilities continue regular cleaning and disinfecting of equipment, and we are still enforcing limits on the number of people who can be in the studios at one time,” Klein said. “We want to do whatever we can to help people feel comfortable and safe in our facilities.”
YWCA Downtown
1130 Nicollet Mall
YWCA Midtown
2121 E. Lake St.
YWCA Uptown
2808 Hennepin Ave.

The tallest of Vertical Endeavors’ climbing walls is 65 feet at the peak of the gym.

Vertical Endeavors
Even the most devoted rock climbing fans find that it’s not always practical to find a suitable cliff, or to put up with rain, snow or a pandemic. For expert climbers (or even beginners wanting to learn rock climbing) an indoor facility is a welcome option. Vertical Endeavors in Minneapolis draws climbing fans where they can choose any one of 90 vertical rope routes, the tallest at 65 feet at the facility’s peak.
Vertical Endeavors had to close for several months because of Covid, first in the spring of 2020, with a short reopening and then, following Gov. Walz’s directions, again last November.
They first reopened with some pandemic restrictions, including 25% capacity and social distancing, but these restrictions have been lifted. The non-vaccinated are still asked to wear face masks. But temperature checks are no longer required when checking in and The Climb Team and Climbing Club will be starting up soon.
Now, people are returning, eager to climb walls and, more importantly, socialize. It’s a perfect sport for people like Kevin Scott, the facility manager at the Minneapolis location, who said he was the kind of kid who would climb on anything he could find. He started sport climbing in 2006 and signed on with Vertical Endeavors nine years ago.
“Climbing is a great way to get a workout,” said Scott. “And it’s a social environment. People come to climb, but then hang out and make friends.”
Members looking for climbing partners can join the Adult Climb League, meeting once a week. New leagues are starting, and old leagues are beginning to get together once again.
There could be up to 180 people climbing once they completely open up, Scott said. That includes classes and kids, many who come with their parents to learn the sport.
“The busiest times,” he said, “are Saturday mornings, after work, and during, of course, bad weather.”
Vertical Endeavors
2560 Nicollet Ave. S.

Center for Blade Arts

The Center for Blade Arts
This Minneapolis club offers sword combat classes, including traditional European historical fencing, Olympic fencing, Japanese Tameshigiri (using sharp metal swords) and traditional Kendo (using bamboo swords). Many of the classes are offered for kids, teens and adults.
“We were and are fortunate, even during the Covid shutdown,” said owner Tyler Clayton. “We have an active community that is very engaged. In March 2020, we closed for three months, and then resumed in the summer. We had video classes every day.”
Coaches spent hours filming solo videos. Sometimes two of them would meet, wearing masks, to create online lessons.
When the Center started to reopen as guidelines changed, they kept tight regulations, including 25% capacity, usually about 10 students at a time. “I couldn’t abide someone getting sick because they came here,” Clayton said.
“We were doing OK when Covid first hit. But our revenue from March 2020 until 2021 is down 40%. It’s slowly been getting better as people are more comfortable training with others,” he said.
Currently, class sizes run from 5 to 15 students and with 10,000 square feet of space, there is room for more than one class at a time. Students range in age from 8 years to people in their 60s, some of whom still attend competitions, their trophies on display at the Center. Right now, all programs are accepting new students, and some have a waiting list.
Center for Blade Arts
4744 Chicago Ave.

Tennis player Heston Anderson, 13 years old, a student at Justice Page Middle School

Inner City Tennis
A huge white dome dominates the area at Martin Luther King Park in South Minneapolis. But while it’s been there for decades, many people have no idea what goes on inside. What’s happening within the dome is an outreach and educational program giving Minneapolis kids a chance to learn tennis and much more. Much of the programing is financed through donations.
Inner City Tennis began in 1952, as a Minneapolis Parks program. Today you can find it in 21 city parks, two sports domes and 11 full-size tennis courts where kids (and adults) can find lessons, leagues, open play and tournaments. “Our focus is outreach into the community,” said Executive Director John Wheaton. “We go to schools and deliver tennis and educational programing to youth.”
When the pandemic began, the tennis program was forced to shut down from last March to mid-June and again in the fall. “But we were able to teach tennis to kids, free of charge, in various places in the community,” he said. “Some parents found having kids at home was a challenge. So, we organized learning pods for classroom work at the sports center in North Minneapolis, some in classrooms and some in open spaces, matching four kids with a mentor overseeing their studies both on and off the tennis court.
“The kids would come to our place at 8:40 in the morning and they’d get picked up at 4 in the afternoon. They would have access to online school programs, which they may not have had available at home.”
Before Covid, the program had 6,000 members. It’s down to 1,000 now, but more kids join the summer program every day. It’s certain, Wheaton said, that the program will be back at that level soon.
Students, from beginners to expert players, can take tennis lessons. Coaches are certified and can help the kids get introduced to the tennis court. There are also group tennis lesson for adults who want to learn tennis fundamentals. And, for kids in need, there are scholarships available.
Inner City Tennis
4005 Nicollet Avenue South
(And other locations)

Nokomis Yoga

Nokomis Yoga
Just up the hill from the east beach at Lake Nokomis is Nokomis Yoga, a small but vibrant yoga studio. The studio was founded by yoga instructor Solveig Corbin, an experienced Svaroopa yoga teacher.
Covid shut down classes at the busy studio in March 2020. Corbin moved the classes to Zoom, with mixed success. She found that some people spent hours on Zoom for work and didn’t want to Zoom anymore. Others couldn’t understand the technology.
Some Zoom students found they didn’t have needed accessories such as yoga blankets, bolsters and blocks. Corbin showed students how to use folding chairs and pillows instead. “It’s been a challenge,” she said. “But it’s good for people to get access to yoga at home, especially during the pandemic. I was able to have my yoga therapy classes, one on one, online, helping people deal with the pain and stress in their bodies and then to release it.”
But there were hardships. She had to cut back her 10-member teaching staff. “And the worst thing was knowing I would have to rebuild without knowing if I could,” she said.
Corbin continued to pay rent, made possible because of the generosity of many, including some students who paid ahead for future classes. Neighborhood businesses donated money, too. “I don’t know who it was, but someone put an envelope with money in my door. It was so great. I felt very supported.”
Nokomis Yoga is now beginning to reopen. “I have been here for 12 years and am now rebuilding,” says Corbin. Some classes are now moving from Zoom to the studio, including Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Yoga Basics and Yoga for Seniors, all open to drop-in students. More classes will again be live and in-person, soon. Beginners are welcome.
Nokomis Yoga
2722 E. 50th St.

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