PAXTON — Gibson Area Hospital plans to open a fitness center in Paxton, filling a void created by the closure of the city's only fitness facility in May.
The Community Wellness Center will be housed in a portion of a building the hospital owns at 239 N. Taft St., said Rob Schmitt, the hospital's chief executive officer.
The building also houses a garage for the hospital's ambulance service and will continue to do so, Schmitt said.
The fitness center is expected to open Sept. 7, following an open house on Sept. 6, Schmitt said.
Schmitt said the closure of the Champion Fitness Physical Therapy clinic in downtown Paxton on May 27 prompted hospital officials to bring back a fitness center to Paxton.
"The community has been asking for someone to step up and meet the need that was void when Champion Fitness closed," Schmitt said. "This has been kind of in the planning stages since Champion's closed, and now that we have everything in place, we're ready to officially announce (Paxton's fitness center) is going to come back."
Schmitt said the wellness center will begin accepting memberships at the open house.
Membership discounts will also be available during the open house.
Schmitt said the wellness center will be in a portion of the building that once housed a physical therapy clinic.
Because physical therapy services are already offered at the Paxton Clinic, the new wellness center will not include physical therapy services.
"This is going to be a community fitness center," Schmitt said. "There's not going to be patient care going on or other activities to interfere with the public having access to it."
Mike Cohlman, the chief executive officer of Champion Fitness, said the decision to close was "not easy" but was in the best interest of the company. Cohlman cited the company's struggles to profit through the clinic's operation.
There were an estimated 100 to 150 members of the fitness center, Cohlman said.
One of those was Nick Fiorillo, a Paxton resident who plans to be among the first to sign up for a membership at the new GAH fitness center.
"It's real good news," Fiorillo said, "and the Gibson hospital is the right one to be running it."
Fiorillo said he is relieved that he will not have to leave Paxton to get a workout.
Since Champion Fitness closed, "several people have been going out of town" to work out, Fiorillo said.
The new wellness center will likely be staffed by existing employees of the Paxton Clinic, Schmitt said.