October 22, 2021

Southern Prairie requests $200K in funding

At the Creston City Council meeting last night, Skip Kenyon and Southern Prairie Family Fitness Center director Denise Kuhns requested a $200,000 distribution from the American Rescue Plan, federal funding, that was granted to the city. The SPFFC building is a city-owned building. The council did not take any action on the request, yet.

Kenyon said the fitness facility has been operating for 25 years.

“Needless to say we’ve had some ups and some downs but we’ve managed to survive, even to the point of surviving a million dollar damage from the tornado not too long ago,” he said.

Kenyon said it takes nearly 1,000 members to keep SPFFC going. As of December 2019, he said the facility had over 1,100 members and cleared the year with more than $100,000.

“We were going and we were fine,” he said. “Then COVID came along.”

At the end of 2020, SPFFC had just over 500 members and was short nearly $125,000.

Kenyon said since then, the administration at the fitness center has been working on facility improvements and additional programming. He mentioned, since severing ties with the YMCA, the facility has saved $30,000, half of which was franchise fees.

Southern Prairie is bouncing back, hovering at nearly 700 members, but Kenyon said it’s still running about $70,000 short to make it through.

Kuhns said COVID-19 has affected fitness centers across the nation.

“It’s not just here,” she said. “The industry has suffered a great loss. There were mandatory shutdowns. There has been an extreme pivot to digital service, also accessibility to home gyms. So fitness centers are struggling.”

Kuhns said SPFFC’s position is better than other facilities who have had to close permanently and said industry experts expect it will take two to three years for things to rebound.

“Some of the things we’re doing is really trying to examine all the things we are doing,” she said.

Kuhns said digital service is a priority.

“We have to be able to invest some money into training and education of our staff to make sure our customers are being served,” she said. “We’d like to invest some money into our equipment and our facility. And we also need buy us some time to investigate our business plan so we can pivot along with the rest of the fitness industry and examine some real collaborative efforts within the community in to how we can come out of this a new facility and still stand on our own two feet.”

SPFFC provides a number of health and wellness programs, recreational leagues, essential after school childcare, and offers meeting space for a number of organizations.

“We’re really working hard to provide opportunities for the community, but it’s slow,” said Kuhns. “We’re getting to the point where our reserves are getting down there and we are needing to do something about it.”

Councilman Rich Madison asked what assurance SPFFC could provide should the council approve the request.

Kuhns said the facility has received some funding thought the Paycheck Protection Program and has some reserves, but “the loss is great.” In speaking with other facility directors, she said community partnerships will be a focus so that different forms of support are in place.

“I think positioning our self to serve in multiple ways will make us better off going forward so we can have a greater position for service,” she said.

Councilmember Jocelyn Blazek said she’s not against helping SPFFC, but she said they applied for a fitness center relief program and would like to know what is awarded through that before the council commits. SPFFC should have hear back on the grant next week.

In other city news:

• Creston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ellen Gerharz announced the chamber is co-sponsoring a candidates’ forum for contested seats Creston City Council and Creston school board. The city council candidates’ forum will be held 7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 21 inside the Allied Health and Science building at Southwestern Community College. The Creston school board candidates’ forum will be held 7 p.m. Oct. 28 in the same location. Those invited to participate include Rich Madison and Michele Thatcher (At-Large); Kiki Scarberry, Vidette Dixon-Borgmann, Jordan Nelson and Jesse Bolinger (At-Large vacancy, two-year term); and Incumbent Matt Levine and Jennifer Worisek (Ward 3). School board candidates are Leslie Wurster, Amanda Mohr and incumbents Galen Zumbach and Sharon Snodgrass. There are three school board seats will be open.

• Clean Sweep Days is back Oct. 18 to 29 allowing residents within Creston city limits to dispose of appliance and other large items at no charge. For pickup, fill out the form online at www.crestoniowachamber.com or www.crestoniowa.gov/2170/City-Council.

• the council approved a fund transfers of $99,560,71

• the council approved a pay estimate No. 7 to Herzberg Construction for work completed on the Sycamore Street bridge.

• scheduled a public hearing 6 p.m. Oct. 19 at the council chamber for the adoption of a proposed amendment No. 1 to the Creston Uban Revitiliation Plan and for the Creston Uran Replacement Project.

Sarah Scull

SARAH SCULL

Sarah Scull is a San Diego transplant living in Creston, Iowa. Sarah joined the Creston News Advertiser editorial staff as a reporter in in 2012 and was promoted to managing editor in November 2018. After two years in that role, she has since become associate editor to spend her time doing what she loves – writing and photography.