As the fall and winter seasons approach, many outdoor fitness activities begin to move indoors. Some may choose to brave the changing conditions; others look for a fitness facility.
The city of Altoona is fortunate to have a large fitness facility readily available with a wide range of activities. For close to 30 years the Altoona Campus has been open to not only residents of Altoona, but also to surrounding areas such as Pleasant Hill and especially east-side Des Moines residents.
Bruce Mason is the executive director of the Campus and has been in his position for 25 years. I met with him and marketing director Shannon Fisher (in her position for 15 years) to discuss the history, current times and possible future plans for the facility.
What has the membership been, how did 2020 affect it, and what are the current number of memberships? The Campus experienced tremendous and rapid growth from the start and peaked around 10,000 members. After suffering through a two-month closure due to the pandemic, membership hit a low point of 6,000 members, and during 2021 it has increased to 7,000. Most of that growth started this past August. Hopefully 2022 will see the membership numbers continue to increase.
Are special precautions in place concerning COVID? Additional cleaning of all equipment is still being performed. Members are strongly encouraged to clean their equipment before and after use. Spinning classes were moved to a larger area to provide social distancing. This has worked well for the classes and will continue.
Of your membership how does it break down according to age? Two groups make up the bulk of the Campus’ memberships, with seniors comprising close to 25% and young families with better than half of the total with 60%.
What fitness classes and equipment are available? Currently there are 75 fitness programs offered with a wide variety of types such as spinning, aerobics and water aerobics. There are free weights and weight machines available. A variety of indoor bikes and other fitness equipment is available. The Campus has a 25-yard pool for water aerobics and lap swimming. An elevated walking/running track overlooks the downstairs basketball courts. The track is decent size and nine laps of the track equals one mile. It provides a level and comfortable surface. At times on the basketball courts there will be several pickleball games taking place.
Are there any expansion plans for this or other facilities? Before the pandemic research was being done on possible expansion to the current campus location. They were and still are tabled at this time. There are no plans to create another facility.
One last comment by the directors: The social aspect of the campus is vital to its success. There are bonds made within classes and those bonds keep people coming back. One area that helped with members connecting socially was the coffee bar. It drew a group of early exercisers and has been missed. What a great place to meet with others after your workout. Hopefully it will make a quick return.
My exposure to the Altoona Campus began through the Silver Sneakers program. It served as a great alternative to braving the elements during those early-morning winter runs. Due to the pandemic I stopped my membership but have recently renewed it. I am thankful to have the option of indoor fitness available to me.
Stephen Taylor is a Pleasant Hill resident and retired minister.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Stephen Taylor: Fitness facility is a jewel for the community