Belleville IL Hospital Sells Health Club for $ 1 to Group

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Membership at the Belleville Health and Sports Center includes many free classes, including the Power Cut group exercise class.

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Debbie Thacker of O’Fallon had a wide choice of health clubs near her home, but the one she decided to join about seven years ago was in Belleville.

His choice fell on the Belleville Health and Sports Center operated by Memorial Hospital.

Thacker and hundreds of members are fiercely loyal to the club and were upset when the hospital wanted to shut down the center in 2019 and sell it. But club members came together to form a non-profit group to operate the center, and Memorial Hospital agreed to lease the building to them at 1001 S. 74th St. for $ 1 a month for over a year. .

Last week, club officials held a ceremony to thank hospital officials for deciding to “sell” them the center for the large sum of $ 1.

President of the Memorial Hospital Mike McManus said the hospital was happy to make the donation, which included the building, grounds and all exercise equipment. The act was transferred to members on July 31.

“We all stayed together, we all stayed together, us and them,” McManus said of the discussions the hospital officials had with the managers of the fitness center.

“When they really understood that yes it can be viable, we can make it work, we were happy to donate the assets.”

Officials at Memorial Hospital have been “agonizing” for years over the decision to sell the center, but announced in 2019 that they wanted to sell the center because it was not part of their “core business as a hospital. ”McManus said.

“These people are very invested in this project and invested in its success,” he said. “It is as it should be.”

Pat Mathis, a Belleville lawyer and club board member, said members could not have continued to operate the club without the help of Memorial Hospital with the subsidized lease and building donation ulterior.

“We knew early on that we could never afford to buy the building,” Mathis said.

But when he got the message that Memorial Hospital would donate the site, “we were thrilled,” Mathis said with a laugh.

“I think I called Marsha (Hohe) first and said, ‘You won’t believe it, but the hospital agreed to give us the building,'” he said.

Hohe is the club manager and the only full time employee. The center also has 28 part-time employees.

“I think we’re stronger now than we’ve ever been,” said Hohe, who first briefly worked at the center as a teenager. She returned to the club about 20 years ago as an instructor and personal trainer, then was hired in June to be its manager.

“I’m really excited about this place,” she said.

Sense of community

For members like Thacker, the club is more than just a place to train.

“I like the camaraderie. This is what was difficult about our closure. … It’s not just a gym, a place to exercise, because there are a lot of them, ”she said. “But we know each other here and we know each other by name and we support each other and we encourage each other and it’s a feeling of community.”

Mathis echoed Thacker’s thoughts.

“We still see it as a kind of community center with a health aspect,” he said. “The club is important to the members and the club is important to the West Belleville community.

“If it closed, many members would suffer, not only in their physical health, but also in their social health, mental health and psychological health.”

Fitness club outlook

Mathis said Memorial Hospital paid for utilities, taxes and repairs while club members rented the building, but now members are responsible for those costs.

The group plans to build a reserve fund for building repairs, for example when the roof needs to be repaired or the air conditioning system breaks down. Donations to the club ranged from $ 10 to $ 5,000 and a load of disinfectant wipes from the Signal Hill Fire Department.

Future club programming opportunities could include new support groups as well as coordination with Memorial Hospital for rehabilitation patients.

Barbara Bahr from Belleville joined the club 15 years ago and is one of seven members of the board.

Bahr appreciates the “good atmosphere” at the center and is looking for more people to join.

“We still have a long way to go,” she said.

Fitness center classes and members

The Belleville Health and Sports Center offers more than 50 classes per week in a wide variety of group exercises.

Cardio Circuit, Cycling, Pilates, Yoga, Silver Sneakers, Rock Steady, Judo, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Zumba, Tai Chi and Boxing Conditioning are some of the classes offered.

The building opened as a racquetball club and Memorial Hospital took it over in 1986.

You can still play racquetball at the center, but the sport is not as popular as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Pickleball is now played at the club.

The center has a large room filled with weight machines, another room with free weights, and a cardio room that includes treadmills, ellipticals, recumbent bikes, and exercise machines. ‘stairs. One room is dedicated to Pilates training and another to yoga.

Hohe said the center has around 1,000 members. The fight against the coronavirus pandemic has hampered recruitment as older people are often concerned about the spread of the disease, Mathis said. Additionally, the club had to close for about three months last year due to coronavirus guidelines.

Former members of the nearby Kings Point club which recently closed are eligible for a free 30-day membership and Hohe said around 60 people have taken advantage of the offer.

A single subscription costs $ 50 per month. Those 62 and over and first responders are billed $ 45. Most courses are included in this fee, but some courses are chargeable.

You do not need to be a member for yoga classes and massage therapy.

For more information, call the center at 618-398-2778 or consult the club’s Facebook page Where website at bhsc.info.

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an associate editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and is originally from St. Louis.


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