Some Naperville residents are voicing their frustrations after learning that the Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness facility is permanently closing on April 1 after 24 years of operation.
11 of the facility’s members took to the podium during public comment at the Naperville City Council meeting on Tuesday night to air their grievances. Many pointed out the community effect the decision would have, noting the center was a spot to support and check in on elderly friends.
“Edward Fitness Center in Naperville is not just a gym. It’s really more like a community center. And I think most people would agree that socialization is an important part of good health,” said Laura McClure, a 15-year member of the center.
A decrease in membership at Napervilles Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness Center
Colin Dalough, the manager of community and government affairs for Edward-Elmhurst Health, spoke at the city council meeting about the challenges the center had faced which led to the decision.
“And that facility for us suffered significant changes throughout that COVID pandemic that we all went through as well. We estimate that roughly 20% of our total volume in paid customers decreased over that time and then which continued challenges to operate that facility,” said Dalough.
But one speaker questioned whether more could have been done to help increase membership.
“If a decline in membership is the justification offered for pulling the plug. Where is the focused marketing plan to boost the utilization of this unique, viable, and precious healthcare asset? That sure seems like a far better solution to me than just taking the easy way out and closing the doors.” said Don Baskin, an almost 25-year member of the facility.
Edward-Elmhurst recommending its members move to the Seven Bridges location
Edward-Elmhurst Health suggested that members move to its Seven Bridges facility in Woodridge, six miles away, which offers similar programming to the Naperville location.
But some in the community complained that it’s not comparable. Jib Chutipong, a member of Naperville Waves Swim Club, said the Seven Bridges facility wasn’t an ideal replacement for their practices.
“But practice over there, again there are four lanes and it’s always too crowded,” said Chutipong. “I hardly was there because I feel that I don’t have room in that pool even though we try to make it work. But when I swim, I have to make sure that if anyone catching me, I have to sit up and let them pass.”
Edward-Elmhurst Health released a statement saying it was aware of the popularity of the pool at its Naperville facility, and was making alterations at its Seven Bridge location to compensate.
“The schedules for land-based and aquatic classes, and Waves master swim program classes at Seven Bridges are being expanded and will be available in mid-March,” the news release stated.
Naperville residents push back on the Naperville Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness Center closure
But many are still pushing for the Naperville location to remain open, even if just for another year to give additional time for members to adjust.
Steve Shamrock, a 15-year member of Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness, launched a Change.org petition with that sentiment, which had garnered more than 2,800 signatures as of Friday afternoon.
Shamrock uses the pool in the center to help relieve his degenerative spine issues. He noted that many elderly residents who live near the facility use it in a similar way, to help maintain their own health.
“Preventative medicine exercise is one of the best, most preventative medicines that you can have. To take that out of the community, people will get more ill and have a lower quality of life,” Shamrock said.
City Council members and the mayor weigh in on the closing
Mayor Steve Chirico noted that council had no jurisdiction over the business decisions made by private property owners. But a few council members did weigh in with their personal feelings on the matter.
“We’re very upset after paying what I consider a very expensive membership fee, which may be part of the problem of attracting new members, to now being told by going to the gym ourselves one day and finding a notice on the door,” councilwoman Jennifer Bruzan Taylor said, noting that this was the second gym her family used to have closed.
Councilman Paul Hinterlong encouraged Edward-Elmhurst Health officials to reflect on the thoughts shared by the public during the council meeting.
“After hearing tonight the input that we have from all of your customers, that have been there for you guys this whole way to…I don’t know what you have planned for that area, but I think it would be very beneficial and very thankful and appreciative to all of the members in here if you were to consider whatever it is that you build or rebuild…to incorporate some type of gym or fitness aspect to it if you can find some extra square footage to make up for the loss,” said Hinterlong.
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