Carrie Rengers

Health Strategies to close after more than three decades (+video)

After more than three decades in existence, the Health Strategies fitness center will be closing on Sept. 30.

Board president Larry Leopold says the decision was hard because of how it will affect members and him personally.

“It was terrible,” he says.

In the late 1970s, Wesley Medical Center started the fitness center on its campus as a way for employees to get in shape and maintain their health.

Leopold says in the late 1980s or so, the center moved to 551 N. Hillside across from the main entrance to Wesley. Eventually, membership opened to other businesses and, finally, to the general public. Wesley quit owning and running the center more than a decade ago. An independent nonprofit called Life Strategies Foundation has been running it.

“Through the years … the niche was the older population,” Leopold says.

At its peak, Health Strategies had 5,000 members and a waiting list of others wanting to join.

Today, it has 1,500 members.

The almost 30,000-square-foot center has a gym, pool and a number of low-impact options for exercise. Leopold says much of the fitness center is now geared toward people with issues such as bad knees and joints and diabetes, “the whole gamut as you age.”

He says, though, that members – most of whom are age 65 to 80 – are moving away, passing away or simply can’t work out as they once did.

“We weren’t getting new members,” Leopold says. “It finally came to the point where operationally you could not sustain the reduction of membership that was going down every year.”

He says the board wanted to take a proactive approach to closing “and then go out on a good note instead of just shutting the door like a lot of the fitness centers had in the past.”

Health Strategies still leases space from Wesley.

“We’ve had a very, very strong, good relationship with Wesley Medical Center,” Leopold says. “We don’t want … for our members to think that Wesley Medical Center is pushing everybody out because that was not the case.”

Wesley doesn’t have new plans for the space yet.

Leopold says he’s been a Health Strategies member for more than 20 years.

“Personally, for my own fitness, it’s going to be a hardship.”

Leopold says it’s also hard knowing that a lot of members won’t be able to easily transition to other fitness centers and that even if they do, it won’t be the same for them.

“They have coffee afterwards,” he says.

Some members would work out and then go to lunch.

“They’ve been doing this for years,” Leopold says. “The family-type feel that they have will be gone.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

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