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West Valley City Journal

Twenty years and still going strong: Family Fitness Center helps residents be healthy

Nov 12, 2019 03:47PM ● By Darrell Kirby

West Valley City Family Fitness Center celebrated 20 years of operation in October. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

In 1999, West Valley City was entering adulthood, having incorporated 19 years earlier. Its population stood at 103,000 and the city was gaining traction as a stable, forward-looking municipality after some shaky early years. 

In October that year, an era of rapid growth that continues today was launched when the ribbon was cut to open the West Valley City Family Fitness Center.

The Family Fitness Center, which anchors the Centennial Park Sports and Recreation complex celebrated its 20th anniversary last month as one of the top public adult and youth recreation and community facilities in the area.  

Jamie Young has seen nearly all of its history as a city parks and recreation employee for just over 19 years, including the last 2 1/2 years as director of the fitness center.  

"It's been great," she said.  

The fitness center has evolved with the times and the changing needs and desires of the public. 

Equipment has been replaced, rooms have been modified, technology has been upgraded, and fitness and recreational activities have been updated to keep up with current trends and interests. “Things are a lot different now than they were 20 years ago," Young said. “We’ve adapted our programming to try to meet the needs of the community, kind of what’s popular in recreation and fitness with the equipment that we have and the programs that we offer.” 

Popular group exercise activities in 1999 included step classes. Today, Zumba dancing to the beat of Latin music is the way to get in aerobic fitness. "That's really, really popular right now. It's a really great workout," Young said. 

Racquetball has waned in recent years, so the fitness center has converted a racquetball court to a room for functional fitness, a type of exercise regimen that simulates body movements that occur in everyday life. “That’s been really popular and well-received by our users," Young said. 

Water fitness in the center's two swimming pools has also surfaced in recent years as a growing exercise routine. “It’s really good to be in the water and not have the strain on your back and your knees,” Young said. 

But she adds that what's popular now might not be in the future. "Everything is kind of a cycle."  

One thing that will likely always be the same is the Family Fitness Center's role as a community center for different types of social activities in a city that now has 138,000 residents. Several rooms are available for events ranging from family reunions and wedding receptions to work retreats and other meetings. 

The large, open central area of the fitness center is also a gathering spot for teens and adults who just want to hang out. The Edutainment Center provides space for young children to be physically active and mentally stimulated. The soft-play attraction features a climbing structure, miniature grocery store and kitchen, theater room, and a giant checker/chessboard on the floor. 

D'Aure Hall started coming to the Family Fitness Center with his six children the day it opened.  Twenty years later, the 82-year-old resident of West Valley for more than half a century still visits for both the exercise and the socializing. "I walk the track a lot. I do more talking than I do walking," he joked. 

Hall says the workouts help him deal with the nagging effects of injuries suffered long ago during his three-year stint as a professional bull rider. “I wasn’t that good to make any money but good enough to just hang on.”

He praised the staff of the fitness center, which numbers 25 full-time employees and up to 200 part-timers, depending on the season with summer being the busiest. “They bend over backwards to help you. They are so sweet.”

Fifteen-year West Valley resident Brian Mecham has been a member of the Family Fitness Center for the past decade. He says the facility and its staff live up to the "family" part of its name. “Getting to know them over the years, they know us by name. It feels like family to us.” 

Mecham, his wife, and four kids ages 9 to 15 have participated in everything from Zumba and fitness classes, swimming, dance, and tumbling to Halloween costume contests and breakfasts with Santa Claus. 

Recreation and community centers such as West Valley's contribute to the quality of life in their communities. "Parks and recreation facilities are stimulators of the (local) economy," Allison Colman, director of health for the National Recreation and Parks Association, told the West Valley Journal. She also said homes near parks and recreation sites often have higher values just by being close to them. 

Colman said another benefit of fitness and recreation centers besides fostering healthier lifestyles is "the social aspect and ability to connect with people." 

The health and welfare of youth can also be aided by such places. "The role of community recreation centers is especially crucial for communities that lack the necessary facilities to keep their children in safe environments. After-school programs provide a refuge for at-risk youth, helping to reduce crime rates, court costs, and other costs to the community," according to the website of Florida-based Sports Facilities Advisory. 

The popularity of the West Valley City Family Fitness center has put its 96,000 square feet at a premium. With no plans or ability to expand the building, director Jamie Young said it will have to accommodate a larger number of patrons and programs by using and modifying existing space according to needs and trends. “Twenty years ago, this was plenty of space for us. Now we have so many programs and things that we sometimes don’t have space to add anything more.”

But Young said the fitness center can still serve even more people than the 1,300 that visit on an average day. "People live in this community and don't know that we're here." 

She said the center is always looking for ways to better market itself. Current promotional efforts include sending flyers to area schools and inexpensive social media advertising. “You do what you can with the budget you have.” Recently installed LED signs on the north and west sides of the Centennial Park complex let thousands of passing motorists know the fitness center is there. 

Mecham and family are well aware of what the Center has to offer as it celebrates its 20th birthday. “It provides all the activities that we need in a really good environment,” he said.