Fitness center is part of building proposal

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 11/3/99.

existing area for free weights (Editor's Note: On Tuesday, Dec. 14, the voters in the Paynesville Area School District will be asked to vote on a $3.4 million building project which includes a fitness center and auditorium.

The Paynesville Press will be featuring different components of the bond issue over the next three weeks: fitness center, auditorium, and tax impact.)

Proponents of the school building proposal like to point out the inadequacy of the school's present weight facility. At public meetings, they have challenged anyone not familiar with these two rooms at the high school to visit. Tours can be arranged through the Community Education office.

Click here for a chart comparing area schools' fitness centers.

Recently, a state fire marshal visited the approxiamately 288 sq. ft. room that contains free weights and was less than impressed, advising the school district to move the weights as they presented an obstacle in the room.

The weights will need to find a new home for the next school year. If voters approve the $3.4 million bond issue, the weights will have an actual new home for the 2001-2002 school year: in a proposed 2,900 sq. ft. fitness center.

If passed by the voters of the district, construction could start next spring and be done in the spring of 2001.

"In looking at facilities, we wanted something large enough to accommodate an entire class," superintendent Howard Caldwell said. "The proposed fitness center will measure approximately 46 by 66 fee. We felt this was a good size to meet the needs of our students. The center should be able to handle a physical education or community education class of 30 to 35 students."

The fitness center will have space for 14 fitness stations, free weights, and an office area. The north wall will features glass windows for natural lighting. Across the hallway from the fitness center will be new men's and women's bathrooms.

The ground floor access will provide easy accessibility to the facility which will be located close to the north parking lot.

In the budget, $75,000 is set aside to furnish the center with equipment. Fitness stations will include stair climber machines, exercise bikes, tread mill, and a selectorized weight system, which is similar to a universal gym. Free weights will be located in the center area of the room.

"We hope to be able to purchase some good used equipment for the center," said Matt Dickhausen, community education and activities director.

"By purchasing good quality equip-ment, there will be less maintenance," Dickhausen added.

Community use
"During the school day, the fitness center would be used primarily by students," Dickhausen, task force member, said. "It is too premature to say what hours it will be open to the community. However, I can envision set hours on consistent days. I want the center staffed by a trained individual who is knowledgeable about weight lifting and risk management."

Dickhausen said if the referendum is approved, his department will survey the community to see what types of usage area residents would want.

A small fee would be charged for the fitness center usage to help cover the cost of the supervisor. "Again, it is too premature to know exactly what the fee will be," Dickhausen said.

"Whoever is in charge of the fitness center needs to understand the benefits of the appropriate pieces of equipment and what workouts will benefit the user the most," Caldwell said.

The supervisor could also conduct classes in weight training, physical fitness, and aerobic workouts.

"Whatever we do, it will be a step forward as much of our equipment is outdated," Caldwell said. The universal gym in the basement is between 25 and 30 years old. It will not be moved into the new facility.

Dickhausen said the upkeep and maintenance of the fitness center would be nominal. "Most of the daily upkeep could be done by whoever is hired to supervise the center. At a lot of fitness centers, the users clean up their area after they are done working out," Dickhausen said.

There are no lockers in the fitness center plan. Users would need to come dressed to work out or change in the bathroom.

Graduation standards
Under the new graduation standards, schools need to teach strength training, aerobic activities, flexibility, and agility. Currently, to meet the cardiovascular portion of the requirements, students run laps around the gym or track and or jump rope, said Brad Skoglund, physical education teacher. To meet the strength requirements, students do push-ups.

"We cannot meet the strength training requirements because we do not have a facility that will hold a class," Skoglund said. "The new facility will help the physical education department expand their programs. Students will be able to work out and train all winter."

"With our present facilities, it is hard to demonstrate many things needed for the graduation standards," agreed Carol Smith, physical ducation instructor.

"For strength training, the only thing we can do now is push-ups. With the center, we can test the students at the beginning of a weight training unit and retest them again at the end of the unit (nine weeks later). It will be nice to have other options to work with," Carol Smith, physical education instructor, said. "The hallways are not a good place to run as the concrete floors are hard on the legs."

Smith feels the fitness center will be very beneficial to the students and community. "It will provide individuals with special needs a place to go and work out. Many have balance problems and need to work on coordination. The fitness center will give them some place to exercise year-round," Smith said.

Skoglund, task force member, feels the fitness center will be a great plus for community members. "It will be nice as the fitness center isn't just a weight room, but will provide something for people of all ages," he said. "For the people walking the hallways daily, the fitness center will provide them another option to exercise."

Skoglund added the physical education classes lose 10 class sessions each year when the gym is being used by different school groups for concerts and plays.

Present facility
At present, the school has two areas used for weights. Students meet in a converted storage area to lift free weights. This room(pictured above)measures about 12 by 24 feet. The universal weight gym is located in the basement in a room measuring 16 by 24 feet. The two rooms total about 672 square feet

"Our district is behind everyone. A majority of our neighboring districts offer a fitness class and weight training program," said Kyle Nehowig, activities coordinator. "We can have only four students safely using the main floor weight room at a time."

Lew Storkamp, building and grounds supervisor, said, "Regardless of whether the referendum passes or not, the weight room will have to be moved." Storkamp received a verbal suggestion from a state fire marshal inspector during a recent inspection that the weights create an obstacle in reaching the air handling unit at the back of the room.

Swimming pool
The idea of an indoor swimming pool has been around longer than the fitness center. At the direction of the school board, one of the areas looked at by the architect and construction manager was the addition of a swimming pool.

A pool was not considered by the task force.

"The cost of building a swimming pool is about $2 million which is not a significant factor," Caldwell said. "The ongoing maintenance expense is what scares us. Research shows that it could cost the district anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 per year for maintenance."

"The district would prefer that money be used for education and not main-tenance," Dickhausen said. "We feel the fitness center and auditorium would benefit more people."

"Long Prairie has a pool and they pay about $93,000 per year for maintenance," Dickhausen added.

"I would love to have had a pool as part of the project," Pat Flanders, school board chairman, said. "However, our first concern is educating children rather than leaning toward recreation."

Flanders added, "Pool maintenance is expensive. For example, Virginia had two pools which were paid for. They had to close down one pool because they could not afford to maintain both."

"I'm a pool proponent. If the financial framework arises that we can afford a pool, I'll support it," Flanders said.

Wrestling room
"Our present fitness center is totally inadequate and needs to be improved," said Virg Vagle, varsity wrestling coach and a physical education teacher. "Our facility is way behind other school district."

"However," Vagle added, "It is unfortunate that nothing was included in the building proposal for a new wrestling practice facility. The middle school wrestlers meet daily in the high school lunch room. The varsity team practices in a basement designed for storage 30 years ago." "I feel a wrestling-dance-aerobics area could have been included in the fitness center plans to accommodate areas not met by our present facility," Vagle said. "A wrestling room was considered along with many other things. They were all looked at and the school board narrowed the list down. We look at the number of people impacted and what would be the most appropriate," Caldwell said. "

Community usage for each facility was also taken into consideration, according to Caldwell.

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