The massive white tent recently erected in a prominent parking lot at Lakewood Center is impossible to miss. The space will soon host members of 24 Hour Fitness for outdoor workouts.

Stefanny Gonzalez, manager of 24 Hour’s South Bay district, confirmed the huge 14,600-square-foot outdoor gym would open for members on Monday. The staff is moving various pieces of equipment from the gym’s interior to the parking lot throughout the week and will lay turf for classes and other workouts.

“We’re big believers that physical health is mental health. There have been tremendous spikes in depression, suicides—just a lot of crazy crap going on in the world that caused people to get into some really dark places,” Gonzalez said. “As soon as we started opening, it was booming. People were excited.”

24 Hour Fitness staff set up equipment in a parking lot off Del Amo Boulevard at the Lakewood Center. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

The process for opening outdoor spaces varies by location, Gonzalez said, noting that the permitting differs depending on the city and each landlord has its own approval process. Some locations went from inception to working out in a matter of weeks, while others are taking months, she said.

The South Bay district is home to 15 of the company’s gyms, including the Lakewood and Long Beach. Located near the intersection of Bellflower Boulevard and Spring Street, the Long Beach location has been operating outdoors since on Nov. 21.

Gyms have been able to operate outdoors since September with strict guidelines, but the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic kept many larger gyms from investing in such spaces. However, in mid-December, the state classified outdoor gyms as essential businesses, protecting them from further closures.

“We’re fighting the disease,” Gonzalez said. “We’re helping with mental health, with physical health, we’re helping give people an outlet if they have had a really difficult year.”

24 Hour Fitness staff moves heavy equipment into its parking lot for outdoor workouts. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.