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Clubs in Iowa Affected by Flooding

DES MOINES, IA -- This week’s floods in the Midwest, particularly in Iowa, have affected for-profit and nonprofit fitness facilities throughout the state. While some fitness centers have reduced hours or programming, others have closed due to water damage or evacuation orders.

Flood waters made their way into the Waterloo, IA, River Plaza Athletic Club, which closed at noon Tuesday. Vern Nelson III, whose family owns the building that houses the club near the Cedar River, has been at the club nearly around the clock along with 10 to 15 staff members and friends. They have been sandbagging the building and pumping water out of the club.

“At this point, we’re not sure that if we pump it out [onto the street] that it’s not coming back in,” Nelson says. “It’s gotten much worse.”

As of this afternoon, water was about 2 inches deep in the cardio and free weight areas as well as the café and the locker rooms, Nelson says. Water also was flooding the swimming pool area, which is a level below the fitness areas. The basketball and racquetball courts, as well as the running track and aerobics room on the third and fourth levels, have not been affected, Nelson says.

Although Nelson and his staff have been trying to move equipment to higher areas of the club, he could not assess the damage. The 26,000-square-foot club is a former YMCA.

In Cedar Falls, IA, the wellness recreation center and the wellness recreation services office on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa were closed today because of flood concerns in that town. An American Red Cross shelter was set up at Northern Iowa’s West Gym, according to the Des Moines Register.

Gym F/X Fitness and Tanning in downtown Des Moines, where streets were flooded earlier today, has not closed, nor has it endured any water damage. However, the 10,000-square-foot, 800-member club had about half the traffic around the noon hour today than it usually does, co-owner Doug Van Wyk says. Many members have called to see if the club, located about six blocks from the Des Moines River, is still open.

“We’re going to be staying open as long as we can,” Van Wyk says.

Although the Riverfront Family YMCA in Des Moines also has not been flooded, the facility closed around 12:30 p.m. today as a precautionary measure. According to a Y employee, the Y is located 20 feet from the Des Moines River and has been warned by its electric company that it may lose power. The Riverfront YMCA has occupied its home in downtown Des Moines since 1957.

All Y employees are expected to vacate the building this afternoon, she says.

“Right now, the river is staying in its banks, and we’re holding our own,” the employee says.

The Des Moines River is expected to come within 6 inches of the record height of 31.7 feet it reached during the floods of 1993, according to the Register. The prediction shows a slower, 3-foot increase to about 29 feet by 1 p.m. Thursday. Forecasts called for a 40 percent chance of showers and a better chance of heavy rain tonight into Thursday.

The Mason City YMCA in Mason City, IA, cancelled its group exercise classes and closed its pool Sunday due to weather concerns and a city-wide water closure. The Y was able to keep its children’s summer camp open, but the club had received a few complaints about the changes in programming, a front desk employee at the Y says.

Operators at the Family YMCA of Black Hawk County in Waterloo, IA, closed four hours early Tuesday night due to safety concerns. The Y isn’t in danger of being flooded, but in Waterloo, numerous bridges and streets have been closed due to flooding, says Arlen Parrish, finance director at the Y.

“Some staff found it difficult to get in and work, and some of our day care parents may have trouble [getting into the Y],” Parrish says. “The plan is to not close early today, but it’s raining, and that may change.”

Foot traffic at the Y was down a bit, but members were still using the facility, he says. The Y has about 3,500 members and has been in its building for the last 26 years.

If necessary, about half of the 60,000-square-foot Rockwell Collins Recreation Center in Cedar Rapids, IA, could be used as a shelter, director Mike Duffy says.

“This is going to be the worst year ever for most of these towns in Iowa,” Duffy says.

For updates on the floods in Iowa, check out Club Industry’s Fitness Business Pro’s blog.

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