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VOL. 6 | NO. 49 | Saturday, November 30, 2013

Health Care Impact

Salvation Army Kroc Center playing role in improving city’s fitness

By Michael Waddell

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Local fitness organizations like the Kroc Center have seen increased membership numbers this year as more people in the Mid-South are working to get fit and taking an active role in their overall health.

Open only since Feb. 23, the 104,000-square-foot Kroc Center – formally the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center – now serves 7,708 individual members, and that number is expected to grow throughout the holidays and into next year.

The 104,000-square-foot Kroc Center now serves 7,708 individual members, and that number is expected to grow throughout the holidays and into the new year. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“If we benchmark with other centers, membership always grows in January because people are inspired and make great resolutions,” said Ellen Westbrook, Salvation Army director of community relations and development. “The membership certainly exceeds our expectations, and that’s why we’ve had to grow the number of classes. People are really using the center, and that’s good news.”

Westbrook attributes the regular attendance of its members in part to the center’s encouraging staff.

“Attendance across the board keeps this center self-supporting, and donations help our shelters and keep our men’s center self-supporting,” Westbrook said. “So the memberships are not only building better, stronger people and neighborhoods, they are also building this center and keeping it serving all of Memphis.”

The center recently partnered with Christian Brothers University to offer memberships for its student body and faculty.

“Instead of building, and duplicating, two great facilities a block apart, this will be their fitness center,” Westbrook said. “And they are already using the center in great numbers.”

Built at the Mid-South Fairgrounds property, the facility was funded by $31 million from the Kroc trust and an additional $25 million raised from more than 750 local donors. The center is also endowed with another $55 million to run the facility, which will eventually staff more than 100 people.

There are now 27 Kroc Centers across the country, and the Memphis Kroc Center is the only one to feature the AutoZone Challenge Center, designed by a team responsible for some of Universal Studios in Orlando.

The three-story interactive 20,000-square-foot room features lasers, touchpads and robotics, as well as a slide and zip line.

The Kroc Center also houses the 300-seat Nancy R. Crosby Worship and Performing Arts Center that has already been used for numerous musical and theatrical performances, the FedEx gymnasium with two full-sized basketball courts, an indoor soccer field, an Olympic-sized pool, and an aquatic center.

“The concerts and plays are drawing good crowds. We have cooperative efforts with local theaters, and we have launched some of our own productions,” Westbrook said. “And our Assisi Foundation Aquatic Center is like a water park with so many interactive features built in.”

Other onsite amenities include the Durham Foundation Kroc Café/demonstration kitchen and an education center with recording and multi-media production equipment, iPads and large-screen TVs.

The 15-acre site also contains two NCAA regulation outdoor soccer fields and the John M. Tully Sr. competitive outdoor splash park with squirt stations and dancing waters. Baptist Memorial Health Care Fitness Center is home to the center’s exercise equipment, which includes nine treadmills, nine elliptical machines, six stationery bikes, and a full range of weight machines.

The center’s popularity is seen in the number of classes offered.

“Early in the year we started out doing less than 60 classes per week, and by summer we were doing more than 80 classes per week,” said Katie Pearson, Kroc Center fitness manager.

New classes include water aerobics and lower-impact Zoomba Gold for seniors and beginners.

“We are constantly offering new things for our membership and meeting that demand and need,” Pearson said.

This summer the Kroc Center also hosted 42 day camps, all of which were packed to capacity.

“We have a lot of activities for kids, including the café and the pool, so we see a lot of families here,” Pearson said.

Families can join for $50 per month for a family of four, with an additional $10 per month per extra family member, and single memberships are $30 per month. Members also get a 25 percent discount on some classes, concerts and other events.

“Rentals are a huge part of the support of the building. People can rent out rooms for a banquet or corporate meeting or outing, and members get a discount on that as well,” Westbrook said.

She expects to hold a membership renewal drive for the center’s initial members in January and February.

Over the holidays, the center’s new “Aim to Maintain” incentive program will allow members who maintain their weight to be entered for a chance to win prizes for a $3 fee.

The Salvation Army has had a presence in Memphis since 1900, focusing on providing shelter and feeding programs while helping people get into housing and jobs.

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