The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 6, 2013

Faribault County Fitness Center outgrows space

Brian Ojanpa
The Mankato Free Press

---- — BLUE EARTH — The Faribault County Fitness Center no longer fits its membership.

Too-small locker and weight rooms have prompted a proposed $625,000 expansion at the facility owned by the city of Blue Earth.

Director Michelle Hall said the most pressing issue is the upstairs weight/cardio exercise room, which she describes as overcrowded, underequipped and posing accessibility issues for some users.

Also on the wish list: updated and enlarged locker rooms and the addition of an aerobics center.

“The weight room is the money maker,” Hall said. “We didn’t make a profit until we started it.”

The City Council today will consider the proposed construction, a 70-by-70-foot addition that would include doubling the size of the weight room.

City Administrator Kathy Bailey said financing could be achieved by the city funding it with internal reserves or through different bonding scenarios.

Hall said membership has tripled in the past three years since the air-conditioned weight room was added. The center now has more than 300 individual and family memberships with usage at an all-time high.

Net profit at the center was $24,000 in 2010, $42,500 in 2011 and $71,000 last year.

Bailey said the city opened the Faribault County Fairgrounds facility “backhandedly” in 1987 after Blue Earth acquired fairgrounds ownership when the Fair Board had fiscal issues.

When a lightning-struck fairgrounds barn burned down, some extra insurance payout money led to the idea of constructing a multi-purpose city-owned building.

And because local high school tennis teams were highly successful at the time, tennis backers pushed for installation of indoor courts. From that, the facility grew into an all-encompassing fitness center, Bailey said.