Tribune News Wire

Muskegon Community College will permanently close its Lakeshore Fitness Center, which had halted operations on March 19 in conjunction with the campus response to the coronavirus, effective immediately.

The Board of Trustees voted 5-2 for closing operations during a special meeting held on May 1. The Board conducted the meeting online in accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public health.

The Board then voted unanimously to explore, with community input, alternatives for the future operation, management and ownership of the facility.

The Lakeshore Fitness Center has been a financial challenge for the college since MCC purchased the facility in August 2015 from the Muskegon Family YMCA for $1.17 million as part of MCC’s community-focused health and wellness initiative, which included the construction in 2017 of the Health and Wellness Center on campus. MCC used its own assets and none of the bond issue funds to buy the building, which was renamed the MCC Lakeshore Fitness Center. The sale of the building allowed the YMCA to pay off its debt.

Over the past five years, MCC has invested more than $2.5 million in the acquisition of the building, repairs and purchase of equipment, and another $2.5 million in operating losses.

In March 2019, the Board of Trustees acknowledged the Lakeshore Fitness Center’s dire financial situation and created a committee, comprised of Chair Diana Osborn: Trustee Donald Crandall, M.D., and Trustee Roy J. Portenga, to review its performance. At the same meeting, the Board reaffirmed in a resolution its commitment to the center as being consistent with the MCC mission and goals, notably addressing Muskegon County’s low health ranking in Michigan over the last 20 years.

The Committee reached out to interested community members to seek viable long-term options, but no feasible financial plans surfaced. As of now, the market is simply not large enough to support the capital and operating requirements for a large, older facility with many years of deferred maintenance.

“The fiscal performance of the Lakeshore Fitness Center has been in question for some time now, but the financial losses incurred are no longer sustainable,” explained Osborn.

“Due to the impact of COVID-19 upon the economy, the college is expecting significant reductions in state aid and, in the short term, enrollment is expected to decline significantly,” said MCC President Dale Nesbary. “The closure of the Center is necessary as the college looks to balance the budget due to revenue shortfalls.”

MCC contracted with Illinois-based Power Wellness, the nation’s largest fitness management company serving healthcare, university, foundation and municipal clients, to manage the Lakeshore Fitness Center. The Center has approximately 3,800 members.

“Power Wellness appreciates the opportunity provided by MCC to assist in the development of their on-campus location fitness center and to manage the transition and operation of the Lakeshore Fitness Center,” said Power Wellness President Brian Hummert.

“On behalf of the Power Wellness team, it has been a great pleasure working for and collaborating with the College on these projects. Importantly, we were honored to serve the community members of Muskegon. We will sincerely miss our team and member relationship and wish everyone continued great health.”

MCC is contacting Lakeshore Fitness Center members about refunds for their unused services and about health and fitness options available to them at the college’s on-campus Health and Wellness Center.

“We sincerely thank all the Lakeshore Fitness Center members for their patronage and the Power Wellness employees for their dedicated service,” said Osborn. “The College extended the life of a valued community asset by five years, while supporting the mission of the College and enhancing health outcomes for those in the community.”

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