Running Wolf Fitness Center to reopen at Phillips Community Center


running_wolf_fitness_story.jpgThe Native American Community Clinic (NACC) and the Indian Health Board (IHB) have teamed up to reopen the Running Wolf Fitness Center in a new location at the Phillips Community Center, located at 2323 11th Avenue South in Minneapolis. Both organizations received grants from Ucare and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Tribe to re-open the community gym.

There will be a grand re-opening event in October at Running Wolf complete with tours and demonstrations of equipment. The first six months of membership are free after receiving a fitness exam at either NACC or IHB and a monthly charge will begin thereafter.

The fitness exam allows for personal attention because it will determine each individual’s level of fitness and thereby allow the staff to give personal attention to each member, which will better yield results for everyone no matter their goals.

There will be a personal trainer available as well as staff from NACC and IHB working at Running Wolf during its hours of operation which are Monday through Thursday from 10am to 7pm, and Friday through Saturday from 10am to 2pm.

Running Wolf was first opened in 1997 on Lake Street and was a collaboration between five organizations as a health prevention program to combat the various health issues within the Native American Community – the center was subsidized by Hennepin County. However, due to lack of funding, Running Wolf has closed multiple times.

Connie Norman (Community Health Educator at NACC) is the new manager of Running Wolf, along with Tammy Didion, the Health Disparities Supervisor at IHB. Both organizations agreed to split the costs for the gym evenly, "no one organization could do this alone," Norman said.

Vacant since 2008, the Phillips Community Center is owned by the Park Board and is the former home to the Boys and Girls Club. Once empty, the Park Board had intended for the building to be demolished due to its deteriorated condition.

A coalition was formed in 2010 to prevent the demolition of the building and once saved, an overall plan was made to turn the Phillips Community Center into a health and wellness center for families in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The coalition was organized by Robert Albee, Chairman of Venture Village Neighborhood, and consisted of a dozen community members that represented each of four neighborhoods within the Phillips community. They came together to present a proposal to the Park Board that would save the building. The Park Board retained some space for their usage and agreed to lease the remaining empty space (which the Park Board has never done before).

Once the building was secured by the coalition, Albee notified the neighborhoods that the building was available for lease and Running Wolf found a new home within the community.

However, in order to ensure that Running Wolf would re-open successfully, IHB and NACC conducted surveys among community members to get their reaction to the re-opening of Running Wolf with a few new changes. There was overwhelming support and excitement for the gym to be open again and there was hardly any adverse reply, even to the idea of paying a monthly fee.

With community support and a new location set, Running Wolf was almost ready to be up and running again but there was work to be done before it could re-open, mainly the costly restoration of its new location.

The Phillips Community Center has gone through 1.5 million dollars in renovations and is fully equipped with a swimming pool, a commercial dining room and kitchen. The gym has been equipped with new floors, showers, and bathrooms. And an area for classes, treadmills, stationary bikes, free weights and circuit training equipment is also included.

With all the newly renovated space, the goal is create programming to appeal to all members of the communities.

"We want to vertically integrate health programs in a way that hasn’t been doneā€¦to turn this community into a health oriented community," Aldee said and Running Wolf is the first piece of the puzzle.

Other possible programs and organizations that will be incorporated into Phillips Community Center are diabetes classes, and a community garden. An the Waite House has expressed interest, as well as Minneapolis Swims and others.