Though the smoke didn’t stop everyone from getting a bit of less-than-fresh air, many people opted to run and bike in the gym rather than Penticton’s parks on smoky days. (Dustin Godfrey/Western News)

Gyms see hike in business due to smoke

The community centre reports a 23-per-cent hike in admissions this summer over last year

While an oppressive blanket of smoke had filled the Okanagan for a significant chunk of the summer, curbing tourism in the area, at least one type of business has seen a bump this summer.

Exercising outdoors can be difficult, when breathing in the kind of smoke that has fogged up the South Okanagan, which has meant some runners and bicyclers have had to take their hobby indoors.

Kirby Layng with City Centre Fitness said he’s seen a bit of a busier summer in his downtown business than usual.

Related: New image of B.C. smoke from space taken today

“It’s definitely nice and air conditioned here and smoke-free in here, so it has made a little difference, for sure,” Layng said, noting summer is typically the slow season for his business.

“July and August are a little bit slower, then September starts picking up. But especially in August there, when it was so smoky, there’s a lot of people not running inside, coming inside and stuff.”

While it’s not easy to say how much the smoke has bumped up his business, Layng said he does hear about it from customers.

Related: Tourist cancellations far beyond B.C. wildfire zone

“All the time,” he said. “That’s one of the main, you can’t do much outside, these days.

“We have a lot of, especially seniors, so it’s just a hard time breathing.”

With summer a little slower for his business, Layng said he does do some summer-specific programming to try to keep business up, which he said also saw a bump from the smoke.

City of Penticton recreation and culture manager Lori Mullen said the Penticton Community Centre’s fitness room saw a 23 per cent jump in revenue from admissions in July and August.

Related: Smoke from wildfires sinks into the valley

“We generally see an increase in our fitness room year over year regardless of the smoke,” she said, later noting that summer of 2016 saw an increase of just three per cent over summer 2015.

“This particular summer, we were up 23 per cent over last summer. Whether that can be attributed to the smoke, I can’t say, but we’re certainly busier in our fitness room this summer versus last summer.”

Mullen said there had been no price jumps between the summers, so the increased revenue was solely due to an increase in traffic, but Mullen couldn’t say what portion of that came from increased memberships and what came from increased single admissions.

But comparatively, the community centre’s pool saw a bump of just three per cent in admissions in July year over year.

“I’d say that 23 (per cent) seems substantial,” she said. “I did ask our reception staff ,and they did say that some people are choosing to exercise indoors versus outdoors because of the smoke.”

Related: Smoke returns to the Okanagan


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