Monon Community Center likely to end free access to walking track

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Clay Clay Parks Director Mark Westermeier said an upcoming expansion of the Monon Community Center’s fitness area could spell the end of free access to the indoor walking and running track.

The indoor track overlooks the Center’s basketball courts and is free for the public to use. There’s one entrance to the indoor track that anyone from the public can access, but the other entrance is through the MCC’s fitness center, which requires a membership card to activate a turnstile for access. Often a paid security officer is on duty to make sure track users – who don’t have a membership card – don’t try to enter the fitness center for free by jumping the turnstile.

“It’s the number one way that someone sneaks into the center without paying,” Westermeier said.

The indoor track is popular with all runners in the cold weather months, especially senior citizens on a tight budget who take advantage of the fact that it’s free. Westermeier said it causes problems the way it was designed.

“It’s always been difficult,” he said. “Our expectation is that it’s about a year out before we make any changes to the plans. When we change some of the layout, it will really compromise our ability to keep the track free. We can’t expand fitness without making these changes.”

Westermeier said the track should have been built differently if it was meant to be free.

“We have been opposed to the track being free since before it was built,” he said. “It was never designed that way, and it’s been an operational problem since it’s opened.”

Westermeier noted that as a result of the gym memberships the MCC operates essentially revenue neutral, which means it doesn’t place a burden on Carmel taxpayers. He said there are many programs to offer services to low income households and senior citizens, including SilverSneakers, which serves approximately 5,000 people every year. This program allows many Medicare health plan users to obtain a gym membership at no cost. To confirm eligibility in the SilverSneakersFitness program, individuals are encouraged to visit silversneakers.com/tools/eligibility. Those who don’t qualify for the program can purchase a monthly MCC membership at a senior citizen discount.

Jay McCarty, a 70-year-old resident of Carmel, said he was disappointed to hear about the upcoming policy change, because his insurance does not cover a membership to the MCC. He said he’d gladly volunteer his time to help guard the gate to make sure people don’t sneak in through the track, urging Carmel Clay Parks to not punish the seniors because of the dishonesty of others.

“I’m totally disappointed in their decision,” he said. “They want to take this away from us because of a few dishonest people. Just put a few volunteers there. It’s so simple to fix.”

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