By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The competition from other fitness sites in the city may be leading to some thin pass sales at the Bowling Green Community Center.
“It just boggles my mind that we don’t have more people in there. It’s such a marvelous facility,” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said during the monthly Park and Recreation Board meeting Tuesday evening.
Pass sales so far this year at the community center total $169,114. That’s a drop from last year’s pass sales at this time totaling $196,070. The number of passes sold this year is 1,134 – 215 fewer than last year at this time.
Each month this year, the numbers have shown a drop.
“I’ve been concerned with the figures we get every month from parks and recreation,” City Council member Sandy Rowland said.
A task force has been set up to study how community center membership might be increased, how visibility can be improved, and how the appearance can be updated. On that task force are park and rec board president Jeff Crawford and board member Cale Hover.
“It’s going to affect revenue if we don’t do some things,” Hover said.
The mayor, who recently officiated at the ribbon cutting of the newest fitness center in town – Planet Fitness – urged the task force to look at other facilities, especially community-supported centers.
Long-time member of the Bowling Green Community Center, Frank McLaughlin, suggested that the reduction in hours at the community center did not help with attendance and pass sales. Some of the new facilities in town are open 24/7, and most are less expensive.
“Clearly there’s a lot of competition in town,” he said.
McLaughlin said he would prefer to remain a member of the community center, but fewer hours and greater costs make it difficult. “It worries me. I’d rather not bail on that facility.”
McLaughlin also reminded the board that as a public body its meeting agendas and minutes should be posted for public viewing on the city’s website. He made that same suggestion earlier this year to the board.
Rowland suggested that the parks and rec department make more free time for kids available at the community center, especially in the winter time.
“If we want to attract millennials, it’s a good idea to look at younger users,” she said.
Rowland stressed that her comments were not criticisms. “I’m worried about our reports,” she said.
After the meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley said the dips in community center memberships are somewhat misleading. Pass holders represent just a portion of the overall usage of the facility, she said.
Earlier this year, BG Independent News ran a story about the increasing number of fitness centers in Bowling Green. There are many similarities at the gyms – lots of equipment for those who prefer solitary exercise, or classes in spinning, zumba or pilates for those who thrive on group motivation.
There are some differences at each location. The community center has a track, basketball and volleyball courts. St. Julian’s Fitness has free classes with memberships and is the official Silver Sneaker location in the city. Anytime Fitness is open round the clock and allows use of any other Anytime Fitness in the world. BGSU Recreation Center has a couple indoor pools. And Crossfit offers its own brand of specialized workouts.
Then another choice arrived, with Planet Fitness opening a gym on South Main Street, near the Staples store.
Generally, Otley is in favor of new business growth to the city – especially since that means new tax revenue – even if it is another gym.
“I think competition is a great thing. It keeps us all on our game,” she said earlier this year.
However, the latest entry has some gym officials breaking out into a sweat.
“That is concerning. This community can only support so much,” Otley said. “The pool of people is only so big.”
Oftentimes when new gyms come to town, they offer great deals that sweet talk customers into giving them a try.
The community center also has its perks, in addition to the gyms and track. It offers youth and adult programming – though at additional costs. Families with kids can leave the youngest in a day care setting, while the others can play basketball or volleyball.
“The community center is more than just someone signing in to use the track or fitness equipment,” Otley said earlier this year. So in that way, the drops in memberships at the center don’t tell the whole story.
“When you look at the big picture of what a community center is there to do,” the facility is meeting that need, she said.