Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: The Morenci Fitness Center has announced that it is temporarily shutting down amid the COVID-19 virus scare. The $14 million facility is under the umbrella of Morenci Community Services.
Caution taken due to COVID-19 virus global pandemic
By Walt Mares
MORENCI – Who would have thought it could happen? Some small signs were posted around the Morenci Fitness Center advising members that the basketball courts would be closed for refurbishing.
It happened very suddenly. The signs no longer matter because suddenly the entire center is closing.
That’s right. The place is shutting down Wednesday, March 18. When it will reopen is totally uncertain. In fact, there is a notice framed in wood announcing its closure. At the bottom of the sign is a question mark, meaning when it will reopen is unknown.
Why is the fitness center suddenly closing? It is for the same reason such facilities are coming to a dead stop. There is caution, anxiety, and outright fear of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spreading among folks. In fact, the World Health Organization has said the virus is so dangerous and potentially deadly it has resulted in a worldwide pandemic.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had initially advised that no activities or gatherings involving more than 50 people should be held. The most recent advice given to the American public is there should be no gatherings with more than 10 people involved.
All across the U.S., restaurants, gymnasiums and even schools are being ordered to close. For some Morenci Fitness center members, a closing did not seem likely. After all, Morenci is located in the high desert of southeastern Arizona. Morenci is in Greenlee County, which has the smallest population among Arizona’s 15 counties. It is also the second smallest of those counties and two-thirds of the county is covered national forest.
Greenlee might undoubtedly be referred to by city dwellers as being “out in the boondocks.”
Although Morenci is in a very remote location, it is also a thriving part of the American economy. Freeport McMoran Inc.’s Morenci mine is the largest operating open-pit copper mine in North America. The mine employs thousands and is the backbone of not only Greenlee’s economy but is also highly critical to Arizona’s economic well-being.
The fitness center is key to maintaining or improving the health of copper miners, their families and that of the public who use the center to stay in or get in shape. The facility provides not only state-of-the-art workout machines, but it also provides other activities, particularly for families, to promote and engage in healthier lifestyles.
Its closing will have a definite negative impact o the Morenci-Clifton community.
Along with the fitness center, the well-used Morenci Library will be closed for an undetermined period. The library sees a great deal of use, particularly among elementary-aged children. It serves many adults as well as youths.
There is also the Morenci Club, which is used mostly for social gatherings such as wedding receptions, dances, and other social events. The club does not have anywhere as much activity as the fitness center or the library but it is still an important part of the community’s social fabric.
The fitness center, library, and club are all located close together. They are part of a complex, a loop, at one end of the Morenci Plaza.
What will people do, particularly in light of the fitness center and the library closing? Who knows, but folks in Greenlee, and certainly in Morenci, are known to always be quite resourceful.
Starbucks remains open
On a positive note, the Starbucks coffee shop located in a part of the fitness center complex will remain open. It is quite a popular place offering high-quality coffee and a variety of other hot and cold drinks. However, tables and chairs normally situated on its patio have been removed, apparently to keep any gatherings from occurring.