Letter to the Editor

Lakeshore Fitness Center

When Muskegon Community College purchased the 31,000-square-foot lakefront YMCA for a bargain $1.17 million in 2015, it made a wise choice. Four years later, the wisdom of that decision for both MCC and the community is unquestionable.

A substantial portion of the college’s $48 million operational budget is funded by the annual 2.5 mills paid by Muskegon County’s property taxpayers. This millage will raise $11 million this fiscal year – $9.5 million for MCC’s operations, plus another $1.5 million for debt on recent campus expansion, according to Ken Long, the college’s finance director.

It made sense for the college to buy the struggling, downtown YMCA, built and sustained with millions in local donations and member fees over past decades. Thanks to the college’s leadership, the building, pool and equipment have been upgraded for millions less than it would have cost the college to build a needed aquatic center. The purchase also created new jobs for students, who earn their tuition by working at the facility.

MCC’s Lakeshore Fitness Center is the only publicly-owned fitness center in this 170,000-person county. With more than 3,000 community members, including hundreds who have joined in recent months, the fitness center is a major downtown employer, busy before dawn well into the evening. The building’s lap pool teaches people of all ages how to swim and offers seniors aquatic exercise classes. MCC student members can choose among dozens of weekly classes, in yoga, spinning, pilates, building cardio capacity and strength. Other attractions include child care when parents  are exercising, family programs, a basketball court, track, handball courts, a weight room and personal training and fitness evaluations.

This MCC facility works because it helps raise Muskegon County’s wellness rankings, which are dismal compared to most Michigan counties. A healthier Muskegon benefits us all.
Contrary to a recent article in The Bay Window, students are not paying a “facility fee” to support the fitness center. Like other colleges, MCC assesses fees per credit hour for infrastructure and technology. The center’s finances will improve as membership continues to rise, says Jeff Lohman, fitness center director.

Friends of the Lakeshore Fitness Center, a broad-based, community non-profit,  is eager to partner with MCC to recruit members, find new revenue sources and eliminate past debt. Muskegon County continues to be committed to this valuable community center, especially in the dead of winter, when other recreational activities are in short supply.

Friends of Lakeshore Fitness Center is actively working with the college, faculty and students to make sure it becomes self-sustaining. Restoring some previously profitable programs, such as a summer, day-camp program, and forming new partnerships with local businesses focused on employee wellness, are ideas that look promising. We look forward to working with the MCC community to make sure the college continues to grow and prosper in downtown Muskegon, where it began. Thank you for working with us.

Nancy Stier
for the Friends of Lakeshore Fitness Center