Macon Health Club locker room talk

By James H. Webb

Special to The Telegraph

The following is a transcription of actual conversation at the Macon Health Club. The group included differing ages and races as well as greatly different socio-economic situations:

“So, when are they gonna close this place?”

“Nobody really seems to know.”

“We keep asking but keep bein’ told that they don’t know anything.”

“I feel like I’m stuck in an episode of Hogan’s Heroes!”

“Yeah, but we will have to figure out a way to tunnel in, instead of tunneling out.”

“The Medical Center has been trying to close this place for years!”

“They’ve done everything they could to drive away members.”

“That’s for sure. First they discouraged kids, which kept families away. Then they cut the hours back, and that drove more away.”

“I gained 10 pounds when they cut the hours back.”

“And, of course, they don’t ever do much around here in the form of maintenance or improvements.”

“No, they’re not interested in this place — only in the Wellness Center!”

“That’s why we’re always being told we can go out there when this place is closed for holidays and on Sundays.”

“I don’t want to go out there!”

“Me either. I don’t like that place. It’s too crowded and too far out.”

“What I don’t understand is how the Medical Center can close this place when it’s in their mission to improve the health of Macon. And the place was given to them.”

“Yeah, but there was some debt, I seem to remember.”

“There may have been, but they’ve gotten use out of those offices over there, and the Heart Works place all these years, so it should have balanced out.”

“Well, they did spend a lot when they took it over.”

“But they spent most of the money on their offices and the outside of the building. They really didn’t make huge changes to inside the club and they haven’t spent much on the gym part, anyway.”

“That carpet up there is at least a dozen years old.”

“And when was the last time they put any new machines in here? They should just give it back to the members.”

“I was told that they have 600 and something members now and if they had 900 members this place would be operating in the black.”

“Well, if that’s true, all they have to do is have a membership drive to get more members.”

“I keep telling y’all that they don’t want to keep it open. It’s not about the money. They could just increase our dues by 50 percent and that would solve that problem.”

“I would be glad to pay double if it meant it would stay open. They could also save money by cutting the lights off at night. I came by here the other night about 11 p.m. and it was lit up like a Christmas tree!”

“They could also get some rent from the top two floors of this building. The third floor never has been occupied. And surely the City Club space could be rented to someone.”

“I heard that the City Club had not paid rent in a couple of years before they closed for good.”

“I heard that, too.”

“What we need to do is get some answers. It’s not right for the members to not be told what’s going on and what we can do to keep it open.”

“They need to open the books and tell the members what things cost and how much it would cost to run this place.”

“I’d like to know how much they’d take for it.”

“We could all go in together and buy it.”

“I’m not at all sure I want to be in business with you!”

“”I’d buy in, too.”

“Yeah, they could keep their office building over there. Just sell us this building.”

“It’s gonna be just like that Y over in Houston County. We’ll come here one day ready to work out and the place will be padlocked.”

“What can we do? I’ve been coming here since I was eleven.”

“I’ve been coming here for forty years.”

“I got you beat. I’ve been coming here for fifty-two.”

“This place has been here for a hundred years. Generations of Maconites have come here. And it’s just not right for the Medical Center to close it just because they’ve driven folks off.”

“What can we do?”

“I don’t know, but we better come up with it soon or we won’t have a place to come to.”

“And what will that say about downtown?”

“What will that say about Macon?”

“Ain’t that the truth.”

I wanted to share this and ask that Health Club members be informed, openly and honestly, what the plans for this important Macon institution are and what can, in fact, be done about keeping it open.

It is not right that club members, and the public, are being kept in the dark about what is going on. We hear all kinds of wild rumors which may or may not be true. And we hear all manner of supposed plans which may or may not be in the works. That is not a respectful way to treat dues-paying members.

James H. Webb is a resident of Macon.