(WITH POLL) Fitness Center at Hartland High School Slated to Close to Public
Officials say declining community use, student need and cost main factors behind decision — some regulars vow to fight the move.
The fitness center at Hartland High School is closing to the public after April 1 — a decision that's upset some of the facility's most frequent users who hope to lobby the school district to change its mind.
"I just want it to stay the way it is," said Hartland resident Scott Weigman, who along with his wife and two teenage children have used the facility that includes a weight room and indoor track. "It's my home away from home."
But Michelle Otis, director of Hartland Community Education, says declining numbers over the past several years along with a need from athletic teams to use the space led officials to decide to close the center to the public.
"We're not covering our costs," said Otis, who said last year the facility averaged 1.4 people per hour. "It doesn't make the sense to have it staffed and open if people aren't coming."
In contrast, the school's aquatic center that's adjacent to the weight room and track is extremely popular. Otis said she believes a big factor in the the fitness center decline has been the opening of two 24-hour gyms in Hartland in recent years. In addition, she added not all adults want to work out with teens. The center, now open 5-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, already had scaled back hours by eliminating weekends and early mornings.
Walk-ins cost $4 a person or the center is available as part of a membership of the Hartland Aquatic Center that ranges from $85 a person to $170 per family for 13 weeks.
Weigman, however, said he believes the center would be more popular if the district did a better job taking care of the equipment, marketing it to the public and offering discounts to students. He said he hopes he and other frequent users who agree with him can convince officials to reverse the decision, noting it wouldn't take many memberships to cover the minimum wages of the workers who now oversee it.
"It's the gym we don't tell anybody about," he said. "It's run so poorly. … What do you expect? I think these people should be ashamed of themselves. It's apparent they don't want to be bothered with it."
He also said it should stay open because it was part of the plans that voters approved when $77 million was sold to build the high school that opened in 2003, Creekside Elementary School and its adjoining athletic complex. In addition, the district cited its community services in arguing for a 2010 bond.
The school board recently approved spending $41,000 for new equipment that could be installed as soon as this week — which became disappointing once Weigman learned of the planned change.
"It's very frustrating that our tax dollars paid for that place and now we're being excommunicated," he said.
Otis defended how the center is marketed, saying the center is advertised in the Community Life newsletter that is mailed to everyone in the Hartland School District along with the aquatic center. She said the center was mentioned in a recent Livingston County Daily Press & Argus article about fitness choices.
Ultimately, she added, success or failure, though, for community education programs and facilities in her experience is based on word of mouth.
She also said the community has other options for fitness, including the outdoor track at the Hartland Educational Support Service Center, fitness classes and open gyms for pickleball, basketball and volleyball. Otis said the district is also offering monthly memberships to help during the transition, but she doesn't expect a change in the decision.
"There's not enough people that want it," she said. "If it was busting at the seems like the pool, we wouldn't be having this discussion."