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Local Commentary: State of the RFC

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By Wayne Morford

In an effort to be open and upfront with our members, I want to share with you information on how the Regional Fitness Center is doing and where it needs to be for the long term benefit of the Morris community.

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Since 2007 there has been a gradual decrease in the number of memberships at the RFC. During our last fiscal year (2008-2009) the RFC lost about $48,000. As with many businesses and organizations this economy has put them in a situation of making hard choices about cutbacks to operations and unfortunately we also are in this situation.

In an effort to balance the budget for 2009-10, we made cuts to our operations in every area and last September cut weekend and late-night hours in addition to raising our fees, which were at the low end in comparison to our peer community centers.

While our revenues are up somewhat and some expenses down after our first four months, we still found that we hadn't closed the gap and needed to make additional cuts immediately. This resulted in the latest round of cuts in November to the least-used facility hours and facility space, the competition pool. In addition, in order to keep intact the group fitness classes program for the future, we need to charge a nominal fee for each participant/user to cover the more than $10,000 per year in instructor wages for those classes. This will take effect in January 2010.

The RFC is a great facility and I'm happy to be the director. While there are many positive happenings and trends -- like the seniors and numbers of community members and students in our fitness classes -- so far, I feel like the bearer of bad news. The reality is that the RFC is a non-profit, full-service, multi-purpose facility supported solely by memberships of University of Minnesota, Morris staff and students, and community members, program fees and donations. With over 40,000 square feet and multiple programs and services to meet the many community needs, we have overhead expenses of more than $1,325 per day. The RFC Board is committed to keeping membership rates as affordable as possible while still being able to pay the bills.

We are currently in a new member campaign and basically have to increase our annual membership base by at least 150 members, which will allow us to reinstate our hours cuts and get back to a break-even basis. As a Morris and campus community creation, we can only give back and operate on what we receive. We need the entire community to invest in their future health, invest in our youth and families, and, where able, take advantage of their insurance rebates, which makes for a very small out-of-pocket monthly cost. I look forward to when we can expand our services and operations once again to meet the many community member needs, now and into the future. We have a survey for you to share your input either online -- www.regionalfitnesscenter.com -- or on a paper version at the RFC. Many of you have told me your user needs and I thank you. I will use this information to guide the RFC into a strong and healthy future.

Wayne Morford is Director of the Regional Fitness Center.

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