Fitness New West participants rally around popular program

“This is my place. This is where I call home. “

Fitness New West enthusiasts are appealing to the city to let them remain in their longtime home at Centennial Community Center.

On Nov. 24, the city announced council had decided to decommission the Canada Games Pool rather than repairing a leak to the pool’s tank. A city press release stated that fitness equipment from Canada Games Pool would be relocated to the gymnasium at Centennial Community Center, and gym programs that normally take place at that site will be relocated to other recreation and community facilities.

“Our participants are just incensed,” said Sandy Earle, who has taught classes at Fitness New West for more three decades. “They are so upset about it. I think the biggest part of it is the fact that it was done without any input and without any consultation, and was just brought forward to council without any acknowledgment of the program that has existed there for so long. “

Earle said Fitness New West participants “are not going down without a fight” and have started a petition urging the city to reconsider its plan to relocate fitness programs to other spaces and to consult with stakeholders. As of Wednesday morning, more than 160 people had signed the petition that’s being circulated through Fitness New West classes.

“It’s not just an aerobic class that goes on there. It is so much more to what this program has done for people, ”Earle said. “It has gotten our citizens through so much. It’s been a home for a lot of people for a long time. “

Launched at Centennial Community Center in 1983, Earle said Fitness New West has met the community’s needs in regards to physical health and social connectedness. She said participants range from teens to seniors in their 80s, who appreciate the program’s inclusive and non-judgmental atmosphere.

“It affects so many people,” she said of the decision. “It is not just 20 ladies in the morning doing mild exercise. I have one participant who comes all the way from Vancouver and has done so for over 30 years. He had tears in his eyes di lui last week when he found this out. He just looked at me and said, ‘What am I going to do? This is my place. This is where I call home. ‘ He said it’s like Cheers because everybody knows your name. It made me cry. It is so emotional for people. This is not about me or our instructors; it is about our participants and their connection to each other, their connection to the community. “

Some participants have been attending classes for well over 30 years, but others have just discovered “this unique gem” in the community, Earle said.

While there are “many, many opportunities” for people to run on a treadmill or lift weights at other venues, Earle said Centennial Community Centre’s gym is the perfect fit for Fitness New West.

“I am sure the powers that be just see that as ‘we can move this to any other place,’” she said. “I think there is continuity. There is a feeling of home there. Physically, the space is very large. “

One of the major problems with moving the program to other locations would be the loss of the sound system that’s needed for the group fitness, Earle said.

“It has an amazing sound system. There is a mic system that works really well. They put a lot of money into making sure that it was a professional sound system in there so that people could be heard and it worked well, “she told the Record. “It’s not just a case of having a little ghetto blaster on the stage and you can play your CDs or put your IPod into, which I think is what their plan is with moving to other facilities.”

On the move?

Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said the city’s goal is to relocate the fitness services that were offered at Canada Games Pool to the fullest extent possible.

“I think it’s important to understand where we are in the journey with all of this. It was only last Wednesday that the decision was made to close the facility, ”he said. “So, in terms of the ‘what comes next’ we are still very much in the exploring options and implications phase of that.”

According to Gibson, Centennial Community Centre’s gymnasium was the first location identified by staff for the gym equipment from Canada Games Pool, and staff is currently looking into the feasibility of doing that. He said the city’s intention is to relocate services that normally take place in the gym to other venues in the city.

“That’s what we are looking at right now in terms of – do we have sufficient space of the right size and the right features to be able to consider that further,” he said. “We have to put all of those pieces together before we come to anything that I would say constitutes a specific plan.”

Gibson didn’t have attendance numbers for Fitness New West and the fitness areas at Canada Games Pool when he spoke to the Record after a Nov. 29 council workshop, but said Fitness New West attendance is “very, very small” compared to the daily attendance at the fitness center at Canada Games Pool.

“It fluctuates throughout the course of the day. There are still some sessions that are very popular, highly subscribed. There are others, where their heydays are behind them. That is not at all to diminish the commitment of the public that still find value in that service and would like to see that continue, ”he said. “We share that; we just need to reconcile whether utilizing that specific space is the only option to provide that. “

Gibson said the city welcomes ideas and thoughts about parks and recreation services.

“We are trying to deal with a situation that has come upon us very quickly and trying to respond in a fashion that is timely, because we have really only two years of significant disruption that we are experiencing,” he said. “We will continue to listen to those emails that come in. We do need to balance that against all of the people in the community that we serve. We will work to find a solution that works for everyone. “

A staff report states that Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Center are scheduled to be decommissioned in August 2023 as part of the Təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Center construction project. Because of the costs and time needed to repair the pool, the city agreed not to repair and reopen Canada Games Pool.

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus

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