Residents of Belleville, Illinois shocked by hospital shut down health club



It was like a “funeral” when the early morning gym rats learned that their health club was closing.

This is how Roy Mueller described the vibe at the Belleville Health and Sports Center as members discussed the letter they had all received saying the club at 1001 S. 74th St. near Belleville would be closed by its owner, Memorial Hospital, on December 31.

Mueller has been a member of the center for 34 years and said members there have developed a sense of community and close bond over the decades. Friendships will be difficult to continue if they are to be made to other health clubs.

“The other day when we got the letter coming into the club, we didn’t do anything that day,” Mueller said. “We didn’t exercise. We sat in a circle and just consoled each other. It was almost like going to a funeral and it was very disheartening.

Chuck Evans trains with Mueller around 5 a.m. almost every morning. He said the center is more than just a health club. It is a place where many retirees gather during the day and socialize.

“And for them it’s a very healthy social network,” Evans said. “A lot of them wouldn’t leave the house or do next to nothing without her. It’s a psychological thing, it’s a physical thing. And they completely ignore the health value of the socialization that continues. “

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Belleville Memorial Hospital has announced that it will close the Belleville Health and Sports Center on December 31. West Belleville residents exercising at the center are unhappy with the club’s closure. Mike Koziatek

Responding to concerns raised by members, Memorial Hospital spokesperson Anne Thomure said in an email, “Belleville Health and Sports Center isn’t just about fitness. These facilities help foster a supportive community around healthy lifestyles. We are proud to have allowed these relationships to develop and to provide members with the tools, resources and passion to continue their engagement.

Dr Terrence Tyrrell, a member of the Belleville Health and Sports Center for 19 years, said the center was vital for retirees who train during the day.

“If you would stand there and watch it at 10 in the morning and see all these people doing exercises,” said Tyrrell, who is a retired radiologist at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. “I’m sorry to see it close. I think it will hurt in the west.

In Memorial’s letter to club members regarding the shutdown, the hospital gave members a list of health clubs and fitness centers in the area.

But members of Belleville Health and Sports Center said other clubs don’t fully provide the range of services they currently have, like the Rock Steady program. which offers boxing exercises for people with Parkinson’s disease and self-defense courses.

Thomure said Memorial has been in contact with other fitness centers who may be interested in a Rock Steady program and / or other specialty classes currently offered at Belleville Health and Sports Center.

“We are fortunate that the Belleville area has many fitness centers and other places for community members to exercise and stay healthy,” said Thomure. “To help our members make a smooth transition, we are providing them with the names and contact details of the more than 20 fitness centers in the Belleville area.”

Reasons for closure

In its letter to club members, Memorial cited the age of the facility, space, declining membership and competition as the reasons for its closure.

Evans said he wanted Memorial Hospital to do more to explore ways to keep the center open, such as increasing fees for program participation. He said he was unsure whether Memorial leaders had “methodically” reviewed the operations at the center and wondered what more could be done to meet the needs of members and keep the club open.

Memorial, which was recently part of St. Louis-based BJC HealthCare, has operated the center since 1986, but the building was previously in operation as the Belleville Raquetball Club.

“Decisions like this are never easy to make, but are necessary to refocus on our mission of providing exceptional health care and compassionate service to our patients,” Memorial said in the letter to club members. .

Perspectives from the health center

Memorial said it wanted to sell the health center after it closed.

The gymnasium is located in Stookey Township, in an unincorporated part of St. Clair County, near the city limits of Belleville. However, Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said he had received several calls regarding the impending closure. He said he plans to meet with Stookey Township supervisor David Bone and Memorial Hospital officials to discuss the impending closure.

Bone said it was too early to say what action Stookey Township could take regarding the gymnasium.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern could not be reached on whether St. Clair County would be involved in the talks.

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital President and CEO Patti Fischer said her organization was not interested in purchasing the Memorial Gymnasium.

Mike Riley, one of four co-owners of Kings Point Sports Club at 7645 Magna Drive, said Kings Point is not interested in purchasing the club’s 74th Street site as it is only about a mile and a half.

Riley, however, urged members of Belleville Health and Fitness to check out the facilities at King’s Point. Facilities include indoor tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool, workout equipment, Pilates and yoga.

Lennox Forrester, general manager of the Downtown Belleville YMCA, said leaders in his organization are aware of what’s going on at the 74th Street club, but it’s too early to say if the YMCA will buy. the property.

This story was originally published November 19, 2019 10:37 am.

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an associate editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and is originally from St. Louis.



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