Eureka Springs Community Center unveils new fitness center
By Samantha Jones
The Eureka Springs Community Center is quickly attracting a crowd on Monday, May 6. It’s 4 p.m. and the gym is filled with the sounds you’d expect to hear at a community gathering: children playing basketball, old friends catching up and new friends meeting for the very first time.
But today isn’t your average community event. It’s a special day, a day the Eureka Springs Community Center’s Board of Directors has dreamed of for years. It’s time to officially open the fitness center to the public.
Board member Bill Featherstone takes the microphone and asks everyone to quiet down, but it takes a while. Featherstone says he can hear the excitement in the room.
“Welcome to the Eureka Springs Community Center’s new fitness center,” he announces to resounding applause. “I’m a man of few words, so I’m going to let Butch take it over from here –– here’s our mayor, Butch Berry.”
Berry reminds everyone how long it has taken to get the community center up and running. Three months before he ran for mayor for the first time, Berry says, the board started to consider purchasing the old high school building and renovating it into a space everyone in the community could enjoy. That was nearly five years ago, Berry says.
“Almost a year ago, we opened up the community center, and that was a great accomplishment,” Berry says, “but this is even better. This is a fitness center. This is something me and the people I went to high school with probably never would have envisioned would be here today.”
Berry continues, “It’s all thanks for the vision and hard work of the people on the board of the community center. They did a great job, and I’m real proud. For years, Eureka Springs has been wanting a community center and a fitness center. They’ve just done a heck of a job on that.”
Berry hands the microphone to Diane Murphy, chairwoman of the community center board. With a big smile, Murphy thanks everyone for coming to celebrate the opening of the fitness area.
“We are so happy to be able to do something that means so much to everybody,” Murphy says. “It’s been about a year since we first opened. At first, we were just looking to see what the people wanted. The fitness center rose to the top.”
The fitness center would not have been possible without the help of the community, Murphy says. She thanks the Windgate Charitable Foundation, the Sunderland Foundation and the Ray and Christine Sturgis Foundation for providing grants to fund the fitness center. Local residents Shile McCarty and Jom Stanton made major contributions to the project, Murphy says, as well as board members Glen Crenshaw and Featherstone.
“We are so grateful for that,” Murphy says.
Activities director Catherine Luna speaks next and says she’s loved seeing the community center grow over the past year.
“It’s been 331 days since we opened the doors here,” Luna says. “We just had a handful of classes then. Now, we have pages and pages of classes.”
The new fitness center means extended hours, Luna says. She says the community center will now be open from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. That’s a pretty big deal for the community center, Luna says.
“I cannot wait to show you what we’ve got behind these walls,” Luna says. “We’re always excited to be growing. Thanks so much for all you’ve done to help us.”
The board gathers together and Murphy cuts the ribbon. She asks everyone to take a peek at the fitness center, and they do. David Hartmann and wife Wendy Reese Hartmann stroll through the new facility, which features ellipticals, treadmills, stationary bikes and various strength training equipment.
“There wasn’t anything like this here in town,” David Hartmann says, “and now there is. We’re members of the community center, and we’re excited to have a facility to use and something for the community to share.”
Wendy Reese Hartmann says she’s seen the impact the community center has had over the past year, saying she’s loved teaching classes there.
“It has an amazing amount of value,” she says. “It’s changing lives. I see that every day in my classes. This is a place where we can gather and be a community.”