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When members at RedLine Athletics Forsyth walked in the doors May 12, it felt like a second grand opening for franchise owner Brian Burns.
For two months, the fitness center had been empty. No young athletes grinding through workouts. No music blaring from the speakers. The novel coronavirus pandemic forced Burns’s business to go virtual.
A longtime youth sports coach, Burns recognized that young athletes in Forsyth County needed a place to get the proper development and training to handle the ever-increasing number of games and tournaments that sports leagues demanded of them.
In February of 2019, Burns opened RedLine Athletics Forsyth, at 1670 Redi Road, a 15,000-square-foot facility that included the works: a full basketball/volleyball court; batting cages; weight room; turf area for football, lacrosse, and soccer; and an area devoted to speed and agility training.
The fitness center offered something for just about everyone. Young athletes could participate in 90-minute group sessions or get one-on-one skill-specific lessons. RedLine welcomed entire teams to use the facility. It even offered a fitness “bootcamp” for adults.
The trainers were relatable to young athletes but also knowledgeable, many of them college or former professional athletes who knew how to balance rigorous workouts with jokes and a steady dose of upbeat music.
The formula worked: By word of mouth alone, Burns’s location was the fastest-growing RedLine in the franchise’s history.
“It just really took off,” Burns said. “It’s a very family-oriented gym.”
When the novel coronavirus pandemic struck, everything came to a halt. Burns closed RedLine Athletics Forsyth’s doors March 17. Uncertainty ensued. Burns had trainers he felt responsible for and business expenses that remained despite orders from the state to temporarily close.
“It was really, really tough,” Burns said. “Really scary. The rent’s not going anywhere. The utilities aren’t going anywhere. We went from making money to zero overnight. That’s not easy to manage a business, and you can’t do anything about it.”
Burns made a series of decisions that didn’t help the business’s bottom line in the short term but gave back to RedLine’s customers and the community. First, he froze all membership fees, while several fitness centers around the country continued to charge members during temporary closures. Second, RedLine offered free daily virtual training sessions and opened them up to nonmembers, too.
The virtual training sessions were a hit. Upwards of 20 kids participated in the Zoom-held sessions at a time. Even some Forsyth County schools used RedLine’s videos to augment their P.E. Classes.
Burns credits his staff of trainers for adapting to the circumstances.
“I let my staff run with it,” Burns said. “They did great. For basketball or football, it could be a little challenging. … My trainers would have to go outside and set up a Zoom call and work drills where you didn’t need a lot of space. They did an awesome job.”
When gyms were allowed to reopen, Burns was eager to get RedLine running again by the earliest date (April 27) but also cautious. He took the time to get contactless thermometers. He hired a company to disinfect the facility with UV lights.
“We tried everything just to make sure we could open up in the safest way possible,” Burns said.
Burns also implemented several other safety precautions before reopening to control the number of people in the facility, ensure social distancing during sessions, and clean high-touch surfaces.
Yes, when RedLine finally reopened, things were a little different. Parents now have to drop off and pick up their kids outside. Athletes get a temperature screening before entering the facility. Training sessions have additional breaks for athletes to wash their hands.
But, overall, it was good to be back — the kids were moving, the music was blaring, and the RedLine family was together again.
“It was exciting,” Burns said. “I think the consensus was, ‘We were ready to get our kids out of the house and get them active.’ I think a lot of kids didn’t have that outlet for those two months.”