MACON, Ga. (41NBC/WMGT) — “This is not something to be quit lightly,” Dave Oedel said. “As a member, I’m disappointed, I think Navicent Health is making a very big mistake.”
He is a professor, lawyer and member of the Macon Health Club. The club closed after decades of serving the Macon community. For Oedel, it was more than just a place where he could train.
“This institution has been something of a part of Macon’s history in terms of race relations,” Oedel said.
The four-story building was built to be a YMCA, a separate YMCA, until the early 1970s when the Macon Health Club took over. Oedel says the club was an important step for integration into Central Georgia. Over the years the club has changed owners, but one thing has remained the same.
“It’s the most integrated institution in Macon, it’s a very unusual place for blacks and whites to meet,” Oedel said.
Navicent Health bought the health club in 1991 and promised to run it until it was no longer possible. That day has come.
Navint shared this statement with us.
“Navicent Health is fully committed to investing in the health and well-being of the communities we are privileged to serve, providing over $80 million in community benefits last year. As part of this commitment, for 26 years we have devoted significant resources to the operation of Macon Health Club, including spending millions of dollars to improve the facility.
Unfortunately, throughout this period Macon Health Club’s membership continued to decline, resulting in significant operating losses. It was never financially viable and it is no longer possible for Navicent Health to continue to fund the facility. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of our financial resources in order to fulfill our primary mission of serving our patients with excellent care.
Fortunately, many Macon Health Club members are also members of the Wellness Center, Navicent Health, where we have world-class exercise facilities. As a health care organization, a priority is to ensure Macon Health Club members have access to a center that will help them maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. We have offered Macon Health Club members a one month free trial period at the wellness center and we hope they will accept our offer.
In the meantime, since we are now in litigation, we are unable to comment at length on the situation. However, we would like to emphasize that throughout our long history in Macon, we have and will continue to do all we can to improve the quality of life in a place we are proud to call our hometown.
James Webb has been a member since the 80s and thinks Navicent hasn’t done enough to keep the facility running.
“They basically drove it into the ground and that frankly seems intentional from my perspective and from the perspective of many members,” Webb said.
“We made an offer, the members, to bring it back to a YMCA, get national funding, regional funding, local funding, put it back up, pay it for whatever is reasonable and they declined,” a said Oedel. .
Navicent says they try to do what’s best for the community and the hospital.
Until then, Oedel and other members will push for the club to reopen.
“We’re going to have to keep chasing this and we’re going to be pretty stubborn about it,” Oedel said. “We are not going to give up easily.”
Macon Health Club President Jim Marshall said the two entities clearly have different views and he hopes they can reach a compromise soon.
Navicent Health and Macon Health Club are taking this to court. On Friday, the judge will decide whether or not to reopen the club for a while until Navicent Health and Macon Health Club reach an agreement.