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Council opts to convert unused meeting rooms into fitness center
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Owners of area fitness centers and Gainesville’s mayor opposed a measure Tuesday to fill the meeting rooms at the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center with fitness equipment.

But four council members voted in favor, authorizing the city’s Parks and Recreation to spend nearly $400,000 to convert 4,400 square feet of meeting space in the nearly new community center to a fitness center.

Frank Simpson, member of the board of the Georgia Mountains YMCA, told council members not to spend city tax dollars creating competition for other businesses.

Another business owner, Jennifer Loggins of Bodyplex on Thompson Bridge Road, agreed.

“Why spend the money when we already have it out there?” Loggins said.

Deputy Director of Gainesville’s Parks and Recreation Department Michael Graham countered, however, that the 4,400-square-foot room would be no competition for Loggins’ 26,000-square-foot facility on Thompson Bridge Road.

Graham said the community center part of the Frances Meadows Center has not met expectations financially.
“There’s too much meeting space out there,” Graham said.

Mayor Myrtle Figueras said the original intention of the center was to bring a community center to the southside of Gainesville.
“I think we’re losing what we have in our original mind,” Figueras said.

Graham countered that the original concept for the Frances Meadows center did include a fitness center, but budget constraints kept the department from including it. Graham said the Fair Street Neighborhood Center still leaves ample meeting room space on the southside of Gainesville.

When it came to a vote, four council members agreed with Graham and Figueras opposed.

Figueras did approve another measure by the department to adjust some of the center’s fees. The changes raise daily fees for all ages, and add the ability for families of two and three to purchase seasonal passes. The changes also allow for groups of 10 or more to receive a 20 percent discount and create a cheaper birthday party package than the ones the center currently offers.

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