Weight-training machines, cardio machines and workout mats and balls fill half of the LeVerne Carlson Fitness Center. -- Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

Archived Story

Fitness center at Alden-Conger High gets plenty of use

Published 11:12am Thursday, February 7, 2013

ALDEN — In July of 2009 and after a ticket price of $2.74 million, the LeVerne Carlson Fitness Center at Alden-Conger High School was opened. Now, 3 1/2 years later, the fitness center which resides in a town of about 600, has about 400 members, some of which come from the surrounding areas, too.

The space offers a cardio area, gymnasium, weight room, Cybex fitness machines, walking track, locker rooms, fitness classes, personal training, 24-hour access and a community meeting room.

Jenny Hovendick, the fitness center coordinator, said she tries to bring in people to fit the needs of what members are asking for — that’s how Zumba and a bootcamp fitness class got started.

To make sharing the space easy for the community and the school, a schedule is maintained on the school’s website so members know when certain parts of the fitness center are available for use.

Part of the LeVerne Carlson Fitness Center is a gymnasium where members can shoot hoops or toss around a volleyball. The other half of the fitness center has weight and cardio machines. A walking track connects the two areas from above.

The school has been able to utilize the space for junior high sporting events and practices, a weight and aerobics class, the elementary students’ rollerskating unit, blood drives and many others. Part of the agreement between the city and the school was that school events get priority for the space, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

“It’s always busy, especially in the winter,” Hovendick said. “We try to find availability for everyone and make it work the best we can.”

Hovendick added the busiest times are similar to other fitness centers where people work out right before and right after work.

“I think it fills a need in a small, rural community to have fitness opportunities available,” Hovendick said.

More fitness classes are likely in the future, it just depends on availability of the space and instructors.

“As long as there’s a demand, we’ll find someone to teach it, basically,” Hovendick said.

While the fitness center has 24-hour access for its members, security measures were taken so that the school is not accessible those hours, too. A security system and locked doors prevent after hours use of the school.

Hovendick said the fitness center is also accomodating to members because of its fees and membership options.

“We let people pay on a monthly basis and keep rates as affordable as we can,” Hovendick said.

There are several factors that go into a membership rate including a person’s age, an individual or family and the member’s place of residence.

Students of Alden-Conger are able to use the fitness center for $5 a month or an annual rate of $45.

Another membership rate less than $10 is available to more than just students. For those who want to use the fitness center for its track, they can pay to use just that.

“There’s a number of people that walk outside in the summer, but need somewhere warm to walk in the winter and they know they’ll never use the weight equipment,” Hovendick said.

The highest monthly membership fee the fitness center offers is $40.

Hovendick said the fees are put into an account that goes back into the fitness center for things like repairs or updating equipment.

The fitness center was named after LeVerne Carlson, a lifelong Alden business and community leader, who donated $300,000 to the project. Other funding came from the City of Alden with a $300,000 grant and public support of a $1.8 million bond issue in which 80 percent of local voters approved.

By building the space in collaboration with the city, the school was able to improve on its idea of a new weight room and also have space for a science room, gym, locker rooms and early childhood family education. For its part of the deal, the city gained handicap-accessible office space in addition to the community fitness center.

Paul Ragatz, the athletic director at Alden-Conger, and Hovendick said they have heard nothing but positive feedback about the expansion.