Reopening Gyms and Fitness Centers in North Carolina’s Phase 2.5: Three Steps to Consider

North Carolina’s “Phase 2.5” allows gyms, fitness centers, and exercise facilities to reopen their doors, so long as they comply with the requirements of North Carolina Executive Order #163. The order’s broad language in defining fitness facilities means that this reopening applies to homeowners associations and condominiums just as much as any other gym or center. This guide is no substitute for reading through the executive order and following the rules it puts in place. However, this guide may be helpful in figuring out what to do and where to start.


The first step is to figure out how many people can be in your fitness facility at once. The order provides different tests for indoor and outdoor areas.

Indoor. For indoor areas, the Emergency Maximum Occupancy is the lowest number produced by using two tests:Indoor. For indoor areas, the Emergency Maximum Occupancy is the lowest number produced by using two tests:

  1. 30% of the stated fire capacity (or 7 users for every 1,000 square feet of the facility’s total square footage, including the parts not accessible to users if there is no stated fire capacity)
  2. Limit the number of people in any given room so that everyone can stay 6 feet apart.

For example, if the fire capacity for the facility is 20 people, then 6 users would be the maximum under the first test. However, if you cannot put 6 people in the facility and still have everyone be 6 feet apart, then the Emergency Maximum Occupancy would need to be even lower than 6 people. Alternatively, if the facility had no fire capacity and was 500 square feet, then 3 users could be in the facility at once, as long as those 3 users could all be 6 feet away from one another.

Outdoor. For outdoor areas, the limit is determined by selecting the lowest number produced by applying three tests:

  1. The outdoor Mass Gathering Limit of 50 people.
  2. 12 users for every 1000 square feet.
  3. Limiting the number of people so that everyone can stay 6 feet apart.

For example, if the outdoor area is exactly one thousand square feet, then the limit would be twelve (12) individuals, so long as everyone can maintain six feet of distance.


The new order requires equipment or exercise areas be spaced out to allow 6 feet of distance between users. Additionally, areas for people to wait to use equipment must be marked off to show 6 foot spaces. Similar to other facilities that have been allowed to reopen, fitness facilities also need to post certain signs advising users of information regarding how to prevent transmission of COVID-19.


Disinfecting shared equipment is a key requirement of the new order. The facility has two ways to satisfy this requirement:

  1. Have an employee disinfect the equipment between users.
  2. Have users disinfect the equipment between users.

If users are to take care of the disinfecting, then the facility must also provide instructions that inform users how to properly disinfect the equipment. If an employee will be taking care of the disinfecting, then there will need to be some procedure to ensure that the equipment gets cleaned off between one user and the next.

While these three steps are the big ones to consider to getting a facility ready to reopen, once the facility is opened, you also have to be ready to promote frequent use of hand sanitizer and hand washing. Additionally, while masks can be taken off while users are strenuously exercising, users indoors and outdoors must wear a face covering when not exercising.

For advice on North Carolina or South Carolina HOA/condo issues,
contact one of the community association attorneys at any of our four offices. 

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