The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City is telling its members the steam rooms and saunas at five metro clubs will be cooling down for good.
The YMCA said it will be closing the saunas at the end of the day on Sunday at the Rankin, Midwest City, Downtown, Bethany and north side locations.
The rooms normally used for a cleanse have become a conundrum. The cost to insure a steam room or sauna is on the rise, and insurance companies say the super-heated rooms can pose a danger to users.
“Sometimes the controls can be changed and it can be too hot for some of our members and it's difficult to control and monitor those because they are in the locker rooms,” YMCA spokeswoman Rachel Klein said on Saturday.
The spa rooms are also havens for disease. Routinely packed with semi-nude, sweaty bodies, a steam room can be more like a walk-in Petri dish. Everything from the cold virus, to E.coli and even potentially deadly MRSA bacteria have been found hiding in the hot and humid rooms.
“They are hard to keep clean and sanitary,” Klein said. “The closing of these is proactive so hopefully to make sure [an infection] never happens.”
Use of saunas has declined steadily at YMCA clubs in recent decades. Officials think less than 1 percent of members in the metro use the spa treatments. But that doesn't mean the announcement hasn't come without criticism.
“We've have some members who are unhappy about it but overall we feel like it's the best thing for the Y and we'll be able to transform those spaces into something that will be of better use for them,” Klein said.
Once closed, the saunas and steam rooms will be converted for other uses. Klein said each location will decide on how best to use those spaces individually.