Wadena to consider including fitness classes with memberships at 'The Mas'

The Maslowski Research and Wellness Center has lost a fitness instructor and heard concerns from members about paying additional fees for fitness classes, prompting the city to evaluate its current rate structure for members.

The city is hearing from two groups about rates at the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center. Some people want fees to remain low so more people can utilize the facility while others are worried that high usage will result in equipment wearing out sooner.
The city will consider whether to change the rate structure for memberships at the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center. Anna Erickson/Pioneer Journal

The Maslowski Research and Wellness Center has lost a fitness instructor and heard concerns from members about paying additional fees for fitness classes, prompting the city to evaluate its current rate structure for members.

Eric Robb, Maslowski director, said currently memberships include use of the facility's exercise equipment, pool and other activity space but not classes.

Fitness instructors are contracted and are required to set a class fee for members and non-members, with The Mas receiving 20 percent of the fees. Under some of the different options, instructors would likely need to be city employees, Robb added.

He did some research of other facilities in the region and some of the wellness centers offered different membership rates that included classes in the monthly/yearly fee or included punch cards.

"I would ask the council to consider keeping our rate structure and fitness structure as is or look at the option of including the fitness classes in the membership fees," he said.


He was concerned about offering tiered memberships or punch cards for several reasons, including the possibility of unhappy customers if instructors left and additional administrative responsibilities.

However, revenue could increase with these options, Robb said, though it's not guaranteed. If a different tiered membership was available, instructors could be paid a flat rate for classes.

Mechelle Howieson, group fitness instructor and personal trainer, told the council she discontinued teaching classes at The Mas after months of low class numbers, no Kidzone and participants unhappy with class fees.

"The class numbers no longer cover my overhead expenses," she said.

Howieson was in favor of a tiered membership option.

Lindsay George, who teaches Zumba classes, said she has taught classes both through Community Education and at The Mas and had larger classes through Community Ed, which doesn't require a membership fee in addition to a class fee.

City councilmember Bruce Uselman asked Robb if he thought memberships would increase if classes were included with the current membership fee.

"I can't say we'll get back to 2016 levels," he said. "There's no guarantee."


Including classes with membership fees remaining fixed might not be a good option for taxpayers, Robb acknowledged. He can't make a prediction, though, he said.

Mayor George Deiss said he has received a number of phone calls from people who told him that if the city absorbs these costs or rates are increased because of this they will discontinue their memberships because they are not using the classes and can't afford an increase.

As far as the taxpayers end of it, Deiss said he knows taxes are increasing and they will continue to increase with the Highway 10 project on the horizon.

"I've had a lot of people saying stop the red ink," he said.

Robb asked the council to think about the options and make a decision in a few months. If a change is requested, Robb said he wants the change to be in place for at least a year and a half to see how it works.

"We can't be making changes every six months," he said.

Dean Uselman, Wadena Development Director and Planning and Zoning Director addressed the council as a member of The Mas, the community, property owner and taxpayer, he said.

"I feel that The Mas is an enterprise fund for the city as a business and it needs to be run as a business," Uselman said.


The Mas has been losing money since it opened and like any other business, it needs to make changes so it can be closer to breaking even, he added, acknowledging the city never thought the facility would add to the city's reserves.

In 2016, the wellness center lost $100,000 in 2016 ($280,000 including depreciation).

The city's golf course, Whitetail Run, also lost money in 2016 ($55,537). Liquor store reserves are transferred each year to cover these funds.

Uselman thinks the city should offer classes with memberships to see if that can increase the number of memberships.

The council will take a look at options and make a decision at a future meeting.

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