Communities and schools benefit from shared fitness facilities

Most of the project is the Paynesville Area Community Center attached to the north side of the high school. Professional and technical classes have been rearranged and work on indoor air quality in primary school is continuing.

Community centers connected to schools can be found in all sizes of school districts in Minnesota. The New London-Spicer High School has had an attached fitness center for over a decade. Redwood Falls has a civic center / community center connected to Redwood Valley High School.

The Paynesville area community center opened in August, two years after voters approved the project. Its pavilion can accommodate four full basketball or volleyball courts, a perimeter walking track, and a group exercise room. Many features are available 24 hours a day for members.

Matt Dickhausen, director of community education for the Paynesville area school district, stands in the weight room of the community fitness center connected to the Paynesville area high school. Dickhausen worked for years to develop the fitness center funded by a community referendum. Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

“Our goal is to keep our community active and fit,” said Matt Dickhausen, director of community education, as he toured the new facility. The center has around 600 members.

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A large wrestling hall / multipurpose hall replaced the old school wrestling hall, which is now a student training center. Have the student center leave the fitness center for community members.

The “fun part” of the new wrestling room is the black lights mounted near the ceiling, Dickhausen said – “We just had black light Nerf wars with kids, and we can do light dodgeball. black.”

The center offers party rentals with an open gym and black light games.

It’s also a healthy option for a party, Dickhausen said.

“When you play dodgeball or Nerf, you don’t know you’re exercising or working out, but you’re just sweating,” he said. “The kids are having so much fun. “

The group exercise room has a system that allows members to choose from hundreds of exercise videos if they don’t have an in-person instructor.

Dickhausen said the community fitness center opened in 2001. Eventually, “we just needed more space,” he said. “We were running out of community gym space for our adult recreational activities; and youth sports had to take place late enough in the day to train.

Dickhausen has been with the school district since 1999 and has been working on ideas for a new center for over a decade. He smiled and said, “I actually learned (computer aided design) so I could write different iterations. “

Center designed to meet different needs, uses

The fitness center was busy in the early evening recently.

Reverend Bob Kandels of Paynesville continues his workout in the fitness center of the recently expanded Paynesville Area Community Center.  Kandels said keeping in shape helped him enjoy his favorite outdoor sports until he was in his 50s.  Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

Reverend Bob Kandels of Paynesville continues his training in the fitness center of the recently expanded Paynesville Area Community Center. Kandels said keeping in shape helped him enjoy his favorite outdoor sports until he was in his 50s. Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

Reverend Bob Kandels, 56, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Paynesville, was in the middle of his training, which he does two to three times a week.

Kandels said he and his wife joined the community center when they moved to town six years ago. “There are relationships here; that’s where people go, ”he said. The new center “is the best thing that has happened”.

The gymnasium was closed for several months at the start of the pandemic. While he understood it was necessary, “when we opened I was so excited because the community was back,” Kandels said.

Andre Haines and Jacob Christenson, both of Paynesville 19 and 2020 graduates, were training nearby. Haines was lifting weights as Christenson noticed.

Andre Haines of Paynesville lifts in the weight room of the recently expanded Paynesville Area Community Center, while Jacob Christenson of Paynesville acts as his watcher.  Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

Andre Haines of Paynesville lifts in the weight room of the recently expanded Paynesville Area Community Center, while Jacob Christenson of Paynesville acts as his watcher. Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

“I grew up coming here,” Haines said. “I can not live without it.”

He had gained weight after a football injury in high school, he said, and his return to the gym helped him lose 50 pounds last summer.

The men said they believed the community center was definitely benefiting people in the area.

“If you can take an hour out of your day and improve yourself, improve your well-being and your state of mind, it is much more worth it than staying home and doing nothing,” Christenson said.

Operators of other centers agree with Dickhausen that a fitness center is good for a city.

“Our fitness center has been a great benefit to our community,” said Megan Swanson, communications director for the New London-Spicer School District. “Until recently, there weren’t a lot of facilities in the area.

The center is accessible 24 hours a day. “Everyone’s schedule is so different so it’s really good,” said Swanson.

The community education department offers a variety of classes for all ages in the fitness center, she said.

When planning for the Redwood Area Community Center in Redwood Falls began in the late 1990s, connecting it to the school “was the best decision they could have made,” said Ross Nachreiner, director of parks and recreation. from the city. “I wouldn’t do it any differently. “

The center opened in 2000. It includes a sports complex and an ice rink as well as a fitness center. There is room for seven full basketball or volleyball courts. In 2016, a center for the elderly and a fitness room for exercise classes were added.

The school and the city have a joint power agreement, and each is allowed to use the other’s facilities free of charge.

The sports complex is used by physical education classes and by athletes in the district. There is an effort to keep some areas open to the public, he said.

Randy Ourada, director of community education for the school district, said the availability of the community center has been a great experience.

“It was certainly a huge advantage when our city and our school worked closely together,” he said.


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