Gym owner has issues with public facility

Fitness2Life says the parks-and-rec-run Lending Max Fitness Centre in Hassen Arena is competition

An Armstrong gym owner has an issue with Armstrong Spallumcheen Parks and Recreation operating a fitness facility.

Peter Nenasheff, owner of Fitness2Life on Pleasant Valley Boulevard, believes the parks-and-rec-run Lending Max Fitness Centre in Hassen Arena, which opened earlier this year, was established from, and operates with, public funds.

“I’m a taxpayer so, essentially, they’ve taken my taxes, bought gym equipment, installed it and say now you have to compete with us,” said Nenasheff.

Parks and recreation, operated by Canlan Ice Sports Ltd., is a joint function of the City of Armstrong and Township of Spallumcheen.

Nenasheff said the Hassen fitness facility has about $24,000 in used gym equipment – confirmed by parks and recreation general manager Byron Sayer – and operates out of the top of the renovated arena.

The only way he found out about it, he said, was through media reports.

“No one from councils or parks and recreation approached me or Curves (a ladies-only gym in the city) to say this is what we’re looking at doing,” said Nenasheff. “There was no consultation.”

Nenasheff said Lending Max offers fitness classes, something his gym doesn’t, but has weights and other equipment similar to his facility.

His gym, he said, targets everyone from age 13 to 80, has a co-ed section downstairs but a ladies-only upstairs for those more comfortable with such a situation.

Nenasheff’s gym offers supervision. Lending Max does not as members access the facility with a swipe card.

“If people feel uncomfortable in a big gym, you’ll feel more uncomfortable there,” he said. “I wouldn’t want the elderly working out there. If anything happens to them, who’s going to check on them?”

Nenasheff met with parks and recreation in October and said the only thing he felt satisfied about was that Lending Max was going to bring their rates in line with his, as he was losing members to the reduced fitness rates, The reduced rates, he said, have not happened.

Parks and recreation also agreed to eliminate a two-year membership.

“It’s personal because this affects my business,” said Nenasheff. “It’s the whole principal. It wasn’t done correctly. There should have been a referendum or public input as to whether or not the facility goes ahead.”

Spallumcheen councillor Joe Van Tienhoven is the chairperson of the parks and recreation board.

He said the commission decided to go ahead with the facility to “offer a totally different experience,” and that they were “trying to get the community active.”

“It’s (Lending Max) for people whose kids are at a hockey or lacrosse practice, they can whip up, jump on a bike or a treadmill and get in some exercise while the kids are there,” said Van Tienhoven.

“We don’t have fitness trainers, we don’t have a full array of weights like his gym does.”

Sayer said the gym was set up because there is enough of a niche market and it goes after people who are looking for something different.

“He’s got the full service fitness facility, it’s a lot bigger, and it will see a very minimal impact to what we’re doing here,” said Sayer. “We’re going to see people who want a little smaller scale, a little more entry level.

“I think it’s going to be a convenience factor. I don’t anticipate a lot of people jumping memberships and coming across from his gym.”

Van Tienhoven disputes Nenasheff’s assertion of a business conflict.

“We also sell hot dogs, pop and candy at the arena. 7-Eleven didn’t come to us and say they don’t like competing with us and you’re publicly funded,” he said.

“We sell coffee and hot chocolate but Tim Hortons didn’t come and say you can’t do that because you’re publicly funded. We tried to make sure we didn’t compete with him.”

The decision to open a facility at Hassen Arena came after requests from the public to both council members and parks and rec.

“My hope is it expands the number of people who are working out and staying active in Armstrong and Spallumcheen, that’s what we’re shooting for,” said Sayer. “We’re not looking to steal people, we’re looking to grow the number of people staying active and healthy.”

Nenasheff set out a petition at his gym, asking if the public disapproved of a fitness facility “equipped and run by public taxpayers’ money, and is in direct competition to the private sector.”

The campaign netted six pages of support signatures.