OUR OPINION: Grand Forks' healthy ChoiceJudging by the center’s success, it’s already making Grand Forks not only a better but also a healthier place.
By: Tom Dennis for the Herald, Grand Forks Herald
The Grand Forks area took a turn for the better when the Greenway opened its gates. The miles-long park along the Red and Red Lake rivers is a national showpiece and is high on the list of amenities that interest people from out of town.
Likewise, the area took a turn for the better when Choice Health & Fitness opened its doors. And just how sharp of a turn now is becoming clear: The new center is wildly popular. It already boasts a membership count that puts it nearly three years ahead of schedule, Herald staff writer Ryan Bakken reported Monday.
Also as Bakken reported, fully 70 percent of the memberships are for families.
What a credit those numbers are to the Grand Forks Park District, the Altru Y Family Center and the others who dreamed big, planned well and then saw the project through to completion.
And what a window the center’s success offers to see America’s changing culture at work.
It’s no coincidence that Grand Forks residents are flocking to the center at the same time the famous Hostess Brands are struggling. Yes, Hostess’ troubles have a lot to do with union and pension issues. “But there’s a bigger reason Hostess is disappearing,” Time magazine reports this week.
“Gradually, our diets have changed and our consumer preferences have shifted.” Hostess makes Wonder Bread as well as Twinkies and other snacks, but neither market is anything like it used to be.
And “to a lesser extent, Americans have also become much more health conscious, which has hurt sales for companies like Hostess that make highly caloric, sugary products,” Time continues.
Meanwhile, “fitness-based industries are bringing in more and more revenue” — and that’s the trend driving memberships at Choice.
Choice’s presence will affect Grand Forks in a number of ways. For one thing, it already has become a popular place to “meet and greet,” especially for young people. Big numbers of Grand Forks high school students wind up at the center every school day after 3 p.m.
For another, the center might very well boost the overall level of fitness in Grand Forks. That was a long-shot goal when the center was proposed. But these days, it’s looking more realistic as people who’ve seldom been to a fitness center find their way to Choice.
By the way, that’s good news not only for Choice but also for other fitness centers in town. Choice seems sure to “expand the market” of people who want to work out — and if the other centers spot this, they ought to be able to attract customers who’d like a more personal and less crowded experience.
Once upon a time, the Grand Forks Park District focused on city beautification. Then came the Baby Boom and the rise of hockey rinks, soccer fields and youth-baseball teams.
Choice Health & Fitness simply is another step in that evolution, as Park District director John Staley has long maintained. And judging by the center’s success, it’s already making Grand Forks not only a better but also a healthier place.
— Tom Dennis for the Herald