Weight Watchers waits for space

Weight Watchers is getting shoved out of the Canada Games Centre, at least according to co-ordinator Kristine Copland.

Weight Watchers is getting shoved out of the Canada Games Centre, at least according to co-ordinator Kristine Copland.

At a meeting in mid-July with associate manger of facilities Art Manhire, Weight Watchers representatives were told the group “did not fit into the mandate (of the Canada Games Centre) for fitness,” said Copland.

Weight Watchers, an organization found in 26 countries around world, assists people in shedding unwanted pounds.

The Weight Watchers group in Whitehorse has attracted 300 members since it started last fall and has been operating out of the multi-purpose room at the Canada Games Centre every Wednesday night.

In July, the centre asked the group if they were willing to go into a partnership with the Centre.

The centre partners with groups like the Boys and Girls Club and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation to share staffing costs and jointly carry out services, said Manhire.

But because Weight Watchers takes direction from its head office in Vancouver, the group was unable to talk about any sort of partnership, said Kopland.

We were told, ‘If there is no partnership, then I’m afraid you’ll have to be asked to move,’” she said.

“They may think Weight Watchers is a gimmick, but a huge part of our program is about promoting fitness,” she said.

The Canada Games Centre, on the other hand, is saying the group is still welcome.

“They have space at the Canada Games Centre and we have no desire to move them,” said Manhire.

“The group has requested extra space on Saturday mornings, so they’re actually getting more space than last year,” he said.

But when the Canada Games Centre contacted Kopland in early August about fall bookings, the four-hour, Wednesday-night block the group previously held was no longer available.

With more than 100 people showing up at one of the two meetings on Wednesday nights, it would be difficult to find alternate space in the city for the group to meet, said Kopland.

The group was offered meeting rooms at the centre, but they wouldn’t have been large enough to accommodate 100 people, she added.

Then the centre suggested Mount McIntyre as an option. But “it wouldn’t have been offered on a consistent basis,” she said.

The meeting room there wouldn’t be available at least twice a month, and Kopland wasn’t interested in shifting the group to different spaces, she said.

“We’re desperately looking for something where we wouldn’t be bumped out.”

But there may be deeper issues at play.

“The group hired a trainer from another one of the clubs in town rather than have one of our people come in and teach the benefits of exercise,” he said.

“And she’s part of one of the other clubs herself – I hate to say it, but this is politically motivated.”

Sharon Miller, who began attending Weight Watchers in the spring, is worried about the future of the group.

“I think everyone is concerned, going to the meetings has been a habit for a lot of people over the last year,” she said.

“I just don’t get it – they (the Canada Games Centre) will be losing 300 people going to their building each week – that’s huge.”

Weight Watchers pays the Canada Games Centre $103.50 per week in exchange for rental of the space on Wednesday nights.

Members of the group don’t need to have a membership with the Canada Games Centre to join, but Kopland said about 30 per cent of her members use the Canada Games Centre facilities.

Manhire disagrees.

“They don’t encourage them to be members,” he said.

The Canada Games Centre is still in discussion with the group about the matter, said Manhire.

We feel that what Weight Watchers offers its members, “fits well into a health lifestyle,” regardless of what Kopland is claiming, he said.

“The group isn’t interested in doing (a partnership) and we just want to make sure that the scope of their services is in line. That’s what we’re all about.”

Contact Vivian Belik at