In the era of budget cuts and furloughs for educational facilities, it’s rare to find a story about the expansion of pubic services. But that is what’s happening at the fitness center located in the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State.
This move is a ripple effect that started when the $61 million Student Recreation and Wellness Center opened on campus in September. With students and alumni flocking to the new facility, the Frog’s Gym located next to the University Athletics offices in the Pyramid struggled to replenish their numbers. The management decided to leave the location, and that left weight/cardio machines and space with no purpose.
Enter the Center for Active Aging and Kinesiotherapy Clinic where local citizens over 50 years old and people with disabilities can come for individualized therapeutic exercise programs. The Department of Kinesiology & Physical Education at Long Beach State serves as the management now and allows it’s graduate assistants and students to work as interns. Selected PE classes also use the machines and exercise rooms; however, all of this was close to never happening.
“We were given 30 days notice to find a new home,” says Kerri Gentry, who served as a Registered Kinesiotherapist at Frog’s Gym for nine years after graduating from Long Beach State. “It was devastating… people came asking where else they could go find what we were offering, and you had to look at them and say ‘I’ve got nothing for you’.”
The University stepped forward in January and purchased the majority of the equipment left behind by Frog’s.
“We weren’t sure if people were still interested, or if they knew about what was happening,” says Gentry. The CAA held an open house three days before opening the doors officially on the first of this month. “It was thrilling… a couple hundred people came in, some were crying, they were just so happy to be home.”
Husband and wife Kenny and Marilou Sams were two of those happy patrons. The 66-year-old natives of Long Beach left other gyms four years ago for the specific classes and community feel of the CAA.
“When it closed, we didn’t do much. We went on a lot of walks,” says Marilou. “It’s comfortable here. The students are always friendly, there to open the door for you… the teachers are terrific, there’s a good variety of classes and we’ve built real friendships here. It’s just a lot of good people taking care of themselves, and just doing what they can.”
Another group taking advantage of the classes and one-on-one assistance from the registered kinesiotherapists are local citizens with disabilities and some others who are suffering from recent illness, injury or surgery.
“We get all kinds of people from the Veterans Hospital to local physical therapies,” says Gentry. “It’s like a family of helping people accomplish something everyday. I love being here.”
“It’s inspiring,” says Tori Willis, a graduate assistant from the Sports Management Program who oversees business development and works the front desk. “I see these elderly active adults, some of them with canes or recovering from a stroke, coming in here to share a common goal… they have a fire inside to continue healthy living and stay dedicated to their well being… it’s a great example to set for the students here.”
The creation of this affordable full-service exercise and fitness facility is also another way for the University to reach out to the community, which is in the same vain as the creation of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. When President F. King Alexander arrived in Long Beach six years ago, he has talked and worked towards stripping Long Beach State of its “commuter campus” tag. Part of that is getting more local citizens to come to campus, and the CAA is leading that charge.
The CAA offers a four-tier membership option that’s as little as $25 a month. Right now there’s at least one class per day for the members to exercise, and socialize.
“We want to keep this energy going,” says Dr. Ralph Rozenek, a professor of Kinesiology who has been at Long Beach State for 23 years. “It’s students servicing the community and it’s members of the community showing the students that you can stay fit as you get older. They are role models, and it’s all very important.”
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