Don’t let the rows of cardio machines, racks of free weights or fleet of spinning bikes fool you — River City Wellness is not a gym.
So says general manager Amy George, about the new, 22,000-square-foot facility that opened at the end of February in Soldotna, on the Kenai Spur Highway next to Beemun’s. The center is, or was, in part, The Fitness Place from down the road. But it’s now owned by a new nonprofit, with a newly expanded mission.
George: “To really try to get people into our facility that don’t usually go to a gym. We don’t want to be thought of as gym. The wellness center becomes kind of a community-involved project. There’s a lot of opportunity here for more than just lifting weights and cardio equipment.”
The ellipticals and treadmills were thrumming away with people racking up the miles. Behind them, weightlifters were working on strength training machines. The scrape and clang of free weights leaving and returning to their racks rang out across the space, while walkers powered around the carpeted, indoor track.
So, OK, it is a gym, but it’s a lot more.
Carver: “What we put in place was a program that would include preventative wellness. So, the more you can take care of your body the less you’re going to have to spend on health care and less visits to your doctor’s office. What it entails, basically, is the idea of a fitness club combined with health care facilities.”
That’s Sky Carver, an advisor for Kenai Alive!, the new nonprofit organization that runs the facility.
The building, that once housed Liquidation World and Gottschalks before that, has office space along one side that organizers are hoping will be used by wellness providers, like sports and physical medicine, physical therapy, massage and counseling. They’re also finishing up a meeting space that could be used for classes and support group meetings.
Carver: “We can have doctors and other specialists speak to the community to educate them and provide services here that then they can use, whether it’s cooking classes or actual walking around our track or moving on with one of our personal coaches to set up a program that they can come in on a daily, weekly basis to follow through with a whole new life change.”
Kenai Alive! is seeking partnerships, both to provide opportunities in the center, and to help support active, healthy lifestyles outside its walls.
Carver: “So any excess funds that are created here in this facility, our plan is to go out into the community and give the money back into those nonprofits and other organizations that are developing activities that fit in with our mission statement.”
For now, though, users seem to be plenty impressed by what’s already available, from a fireplace in the lounge area to the sleek new locker rooms.
SFX: “It’s nice to have a nice locker room! Glad you like it.
The grand opening was Feb. 27, with a visit from Olympic skier and ultra athlete Nina Kemppel, free fitness classes throughout the day and free samples of smoothies, juices and a new line of protein bars. Just, try them first before asking what’s in them.
Carver: “Cricket protein, and it actually tastes pretty good.”
George: “So if you’ve always wanted to try cricket flour, now’s your chance.”
A variety of membership options are available, as well as punch cards and trial passes. Or if someone just wants to use the indoor walking track or bouldering wall that will be installed this spring, memberships will be available for those things, too.
George: “We’d like to involve everyone and have everybody at least come see what we’re about and try us, and not think of us as just a normal, membership-type gym.”
For more information, check out River City Wellness on Facebook, or call 420-3972.
— Jenny Neyman, KDLL