North St. Paul fitness center to close

For North St. Paul, a place to exercise is too expensive to run.

The city’s fitness center will close on Dec. 31, about 21 years after the North St. Paul Community Center (now Community School) opened.

The city started leasing the building at 2300 North St. Paul Drive to the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District in March. The district agreed to a 27-month lease to house alternative learning programs for high school juniors and seniors.

The city has since operated the fitness center, which houses several exercise machines, free weights and stretching equipment, in partnership with the district.

The school board considered using it for a student project, but in September decided it’s too big of a money-loser, leaving it up to the city to run it or close it down. It’s simply too costly to keep open, according to city manager Jason Ziemer.

“It’s unfortunate, because it certainly has been an asset to the community,” he said.

The city started looking at dropping it last year, hoping to trim the city budget by $500,000.

The community center opened in 1992. At its peak, the center had nearly 400 members. Its membership took a dive in recent years and ran a $329,500 deficit in 2011.

A 2012 resident survey showed only 2 percent of residents had community center memberships. In September, there were 110 memberships, fees from which would only take care of less than one-fourth of expenses, according to school staff’s analysis at the time.

The North St. Paul branch of the Ramsey County Library will remain open.

There will be designated hours when common-area computers can be accessed, according to Ziemer.

—Kaitlyn Roby

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