New London-Spicer School District to open community fitness center

NEW LONDON -- If you're still feeling guilty about indulging in that second slice of pie on Thanksgiving, you'll soon find some calorie-burning solace at an area school.

NEW LONDON -- If you're still feeling guilty about indulging in that second slice of pie on Thanksgiving, you'll soon find some calorie-burning solace at an area school.

The New London-Spicer School District is opening a community fitness center next week. Those interested in becoming members can sign up at an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the new center, which is in the middle school/high school building in New London.

The district has considered opening a fitness center for about three years. Students in grades seven through 10 have been using it this school year during physical education classes.

The center is run and paid for through Community Education. The equipment and remodeling the center's room cost about $55,000, which came out of the community education fund balance, said Tom Scearcy, community education director.

"We just decided it was something we needed to do for our students and the community," Scearcy said.


The idea for a community fitness center started in late 2003 when the school district was considering contracting with the National School Fitness Foundation. The Utah-based foundation pledged to reimburse the school for exercise equipment, but it later was charged with fraud and filed for bankruptcy. NLS canceled its contracts with the foundation.

Still, the district wanted to provide a place where both students and adults could become more physically active and learn more about the benefits of fitness, Scearcy said.

NLS asked the Paynesville Area School District's community education director for guidance. The Paynesville school district opened a fitness center in 2001 after voters approved a $3.4 million bond issue to construct the center and an auditorium.

The Paynesville fitness center has generated enough income to become self-sustaining and has seen an increase in member visits, said Matt Dickhausen, Paynesville community education director. Member visits increased more than 6,800 from the 2003-04 school year to the 2004-05 school year, which had 22,137 visits.

The district added 800 square feet to the center this year to accommodate the increased usage, a project that was paid for with membership revenues, Dickhausen said.

The center has benefited the community, which didn't have a fitness center within 30 miles when the school's center was built, Dickhausen said. There are other benefits, too, he said.

"It's a great link for our community members that don't have any other ties to the school," Dickhausen said.

NLS community education hopes to find similar success with its fitness center. Its goal is to have 80 to 100 memberships, which would pay for center staff, Scearcy said. Community education hired a fitness center supervisor, Heather McLain, earlier this month and will need other staff.


The NLS fitness center has 17 Paramount weight machines, three stations of free weights, three treadmills, two elliptical machines, one recumbent bicycle and eight spinning bicycles.

Scearcy said they found some deals on equipment with Dickhausen's help. For example, community education purchased $15,000 worth of equipment for $7,000 after a fitness center in St. Cloud closed, Scearcy said.

Fitness center members also will be able to watch television while they exercise thanks to donations from TDS Telecom, the Letterman's Club and the Spicer Lions.

The fitness center's membership fees are relatively low, and there are no initiation fees. A single membership is $20 a month and couples and families pay less per person. Discounts will be offered until Dec. 5.

People with Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance may qualify for membership fee reimbursement if they work out there at least eight times a month.

The center opens Dec. 5 and its hours will be 5:30 to 8 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3:30 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday. Hours may change in the summer.

Membership is not limited to NLS School District residents.

A sign has been put up in front of the entrance, which is best accessed from the middle school parking lot by the water tower and playground. The center is by the old high school gym.


For more information, call the fitness center at (320) 354-1449 or community education at (320) 354-1406.

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