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Keeping Faribault County residents fit for 20 years

By Staff | May 5, 2008

Fitness center director Michelle Hall and board member David Lein cut the ribbon at the center last Wednesday.

Twenty years ago a group of Blue Earth citizens dedicated a lot of time and effort to getting a new building constructed that would house an indoor tennis court, and some exercise equipment. It resulted in the birth of the Faribault County Fitness Center.

The fitness center celebrated both their 20-year anniversary and some recent upgrades with a ribbon cutting ceremony last Wednesday afternoon.

The fitness center is owned and operated by the City of Blue Earth, but it was a group effort that got it going 20 years ago.

Local attorney Mike Johnson said that it all started when a round barn at the fairgrounds burned down.

“The fair board had that building insured and some of us suggested that they use the insurance money to build a new multi-purpose building that could house a tennis court,” Johnson said. “They actually built a building of their own, but had $50,000 left over and gave it to us to use.”

Johnson said a group of people then started a fundraiser and raised about $140,000 for the new building. That is when they asked the city to step in and take over the project, which they did.

Local insurance agent David Lein agreed. “It was a joint effort between the fair board, the county, the city and a group of private citizens,” he said.

Lein has been on the governing board of the fitness center for all 20 years of its existence.

The building cost about $200,000 to build, Lein said. He also recalled that they bought the racquetball court from someone in Tracy and hauled it here and reassembled it.

Lein said that when the facility was first built the tennis and racquetball courts were the main focus, and the exercise equipment was secondary. “Now people are using the equipment a lot, and the courts are secondary,” he said.

The city recently spent $6,000 to install some better weight lifting equipment in the fitness center, City Administrator Ben Martig pointed out at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Fitness Center Director Michelle Hall agreed, and said that the center has some of the best equipment around, especially for a town the size of Blue Earth. She added that it gets used a lot.

The center has about 200 members overall in all areas, Hall said, noting that membership has grown over the years, she said. “Every time we add a program, we get more people involved,” she said. Those programs include such things as gymnastics, aerobic exercise, personal trainer, and more.They also have wallyball, and sand volleyball leagues.

Hall has been the director at the center for over 11 of the 20 years it has been in Blue Earth.

Both Martig and Hall said that the addition of air conditioning in the facility will help with the building being used more in summer. The fair also gets to use the building for two weeks around fair time, and they are glad the air conditioning was added, Martig said.

The third new item at the center is a large sign, that is located on Fairgounds Road. Martig said the city took the old liquor store sign and had it remade into a sign for the fitness center. Blue Earth Graphics designed a new logo for the center to use.

The final new item at the center is a key card entry system, that allows members to come and use it anytime they want.

The fitness center is located on the county fairgrounds and membership information is available by calling 526-3376. Hall pointed out that many health insurance companies will reimburse some or all of the membership costs.