The city is mismanaging the Canada Games Centre’s fitness room, says Peak Fitness owner Lee Randell.
It’s understaffed, the machines are broken and that’s driving users away.
Now Randell wants to take over operation of the wellness centre, which holds the aerobic equipment.
“I don’t think the city is really satisfied with the situation there and neither are we,” said Randell.
“I would like to see more staffing in that space. I would like to see more support for brand new people coming in, and more supervision of the area, so there’s not kids running through the space and that the equipment is looked after.”
Thirty-six pieces, or 80 per cent of the machines in the centre’s fitness area, are leased from Peak — including treadmills, elliptical trainers, stair-climbers, stationary bikes, rowing machines and free weights.
Instead of direct payment for the machines, Peak agreed to take a cut of revenue from pass sales.
But, since the facility opened eight months ago, membership levels have fallen short of what Randell expected.
While the city projected it would sell 1,710 adult passes each month, the numbers have declined since January — dropping to slightly more than 1,000 by April.
Originally Randell was happy with the deal, but as membership numbers dropped he found his share of revenues inadequate.
“I think what ends up happening is we have a retention issue where there’s people not getting the support that they need, and it just becomes a bit of a revolving door that we’d like to stop,” said Randell.
The city is in charge of running the wellness centre, but they do not provide any training staff for clients, and a handful of the machines are broken.
“Because of the city’s budget issues, they are not able to put the money into the staffing that I’d like to see,” he said.
Three weeks ago, the city announced the complex’s budget was short $549,000, and operating expenses were $224,000 higher than anticipated.
“We would like to completely operate the space ourselves, to lease it from the city, to staff it ourselves, to update the equipment, and then to put in a full-service fitness club up there,” he said.
Randell envisions a fee structure where people pay Peak directly for use of the fitness area and then pay an extra fee to use the rest of the $42-million centre.
Members using the gym’s current Riverdale location could use the centre’s facility, and vice-versa.
“What we have to do is make sure that it is what people want and they feel that they’re getting their value,” said councillor Doug Graham.
“You get people going in there enthusiastic as heck, and they pay their $45.50 for a month’s membership, and then, after a month, they say, ‘Hmm, you know this isn’t quite what I thought it was.’
“We have to do things that will attract people to that facility and, to me, they aren’t being done yet.”
Graham says the centre is giving Peak Fitness different membership statistics than those received by the city.
Not true, said acting city manager Robert Fendrick.
“(Peak is) getting the same data as we’re getting, but it’s just detailed and it needs interpretation and (Randell) is not able to do that,” said Fendrick.
“I’m not going to try and say that he’s not capable of understanding it, but the fact is somebody’s got to sit with him and work through it and he’s just not willing to do that.”
The centre’s supervisor Bernie Van Hooft resigned suddenly last Friday, leaving city management scrambling for a replacement just nine months before the Canada Games are set to begin.
The bad press the centre has received lately has been unfair, said assistant supervisor Tammie Cox.
“We’ve got everything under one roof and it is something to be proud of,” she said.
“People are coming from all across Canada and saying: ‘Wow, there’s nothing like this in Canada.’”
In a recent city survey, 76 per cent of respondents said they or a family member used the centre.
“That’s huge,” said Cox. “Huge.”
Discussions are currently underway between Peak and the city to work out a new deal.
City parks and recreation manager Linda Rapp couldn’t say whether the city would let Peak take over the wellness centre.
“That’s just a proposal that has just recently been raised, so it hasn’t been through any type of negotiation process at this point,” she said.
Rapp has been meeting with Randell on a regular basis since the facility opened.
“I’ve always been very clear that our goal for the operation was 1,710 monthly members — that’s always been there, so I couldn’t speak about what people’s business decisions or assumptions were,” said Rapp.
“We’ve identified some shortfalls and some issues with the current situation and have been working on options on how to resolve those.
“We have more meetings scheduled and we recognize that the fitness wellness part of that operation is very important.”
If they can’t come to an agreement, Randell will sell all the equipment to the city.
“The fitness component in there is not going to be fixed until one of these two parties takes full responsibility for it,” he said.
“In the best-case scenario here, the city still maintains the majority of their numbers, we start getting direct revenue from the people that are just using the fitness area and, most importantly, the people up there will get the support they need when they’re training.
“But I really believe that if we continue right now down the way that we’ve been going here, it’s not really in either of our interests.”