March 27, 2011

Manchin proud of Rec Center success | Logan Banner

CHIEF LOGAN STATE PARK -- U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin stood near the doorway of the Chief Logan Rec Center on Wednesday and welcomed members as they came in for their daily workout.

"Come on in," Manchin said, welcoming a group walking through the door.

Manchin beemed as people told him how they love the Rec Center.

At one point during Manchin's visit, people were lined up out the door signing in and asking about buying a membership to the Rec Center.

Impressed at the number of people coming into the facility during the early afternoon, Manchin turned to Rec Center Board President Wally Thornhill and asked about the Rec Center's membership.

"We've got more than 1,700 members and 600 people visiting the facility a day," Thornhill told Manchin.

"Wow," Manchin said. "That's just great."

Manchin, who helped secure funding to build the Rec Center, asked members what they thought of the building and all it has to offer.

"We love it," one girl in a group said.

"It's great," a man told the U.S. Senator. "It's great to have something in Logan County like this."

Manchin wholeheartedly agreed.

"This is special," Manchin said, smiling at the compliments people were making about the Chief Logan Rec Center, which offers three tennis courts, basketball goals, an elevated walking track, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a multi-purpose area, a fitness center with state-of-the-art commercial cardiovascular and resistance equipment.

Manchin said the success of the Chief Logan Rec Center had far surpassed what he imagined.

The Rec Center membership continues to grow and the facility is busy with people from the time it opens its doors until closing each night. Use of the facility has grown so much in the last year that more parking lots have been added to accommodate everyone.

New programs like water aquatics, water aerobics, mixed martial arts training and spin classes are very popular and Rec Center Director Terry Mullins said she hopes to add more classes and facilities to the Rec Center in the future.

Mullins led her step aerobics class while Manchin and local officials toured the building. Manchin watched from up high on the elevated walking track as Mullins worked out with her students.

Manchin said he was never skeptical about Logan County's officials making the Rec Center work, but he said he knew the state couldn't run the facility as successfully. So, he said he wanted Logan County to take ownership of the Rec Center and run it as their own.

"I knew that the state wouldn't be able to make it successful, not like local ownership could," Manchin said. "When you own something, it's no different than if you rent a car or you own the car — you take care of it differently. I wanted the people of Logan County to own and run the Rec Center. That's why it's so successful. If the state ran it, it would be just another state-run facility and it wouldn't have all the energy and excitement you see. It wouldn't have 1,700 members and 600 people a day using it. You don't see this anywhere else."

Manchin said he is impressed at the facility and all it offers the people of the coalfield region. He said he hopes more people take the opportunity to get healthy by using the Rec Center.

"It's a class act," Manchin said. "The bottom line is that they are running it right. People are involved and they are doing things they want to do. They come here to walk, to exercise, to swim, to do aerobics or even if they just want to come enjoy the facility. It's just something special."

Manchin toured the Chief Logan Rec Center and discussed its success with Thornhill, Logan County Commissioner Willie Akers, former Logan County Commissioner Art Kirkendoll, Logan County Administrator Roscoe "Rocky" Adkins and Rec Center Official Leonard Hovis. He told the group they were doing a good job running the Rec Center.

"I could never be any more proud of anything we've done in the state," Manchin said. "The leadership we have here in Logan County took this and made it happen. All we did was provide the opportunity, but they had to make it happen.

"When I was governor, we didn't have enough money to build every county one of these, but Logan County stepped up and said they would take it and operate it, and I told everyone else who wanted one to look at Logan, because Logan County is the model to work off of. I told them if they could do it like Logan County did, they'd be fine."

Manchin also rode an elliptical bike and talked with women working out on bikes beside him. Every comment Manchin heard was positive about the Rec Center.

The senator said the people of Logan County should all be using the Chief Logan Rec Center.

"There is no excuse not to be involved and to come here to the Chief Logan Rec Center," Manchin said. "Once you get here, you'll get addicted, and I guarantee you'll get much healthier. Insurance plans should make this place a requirement. And welfare ... people who are having financial challenges ... get them healthy and back into the workforce. This is great. It's unbelievable to have this opportunity. We're responsible for our own health -- no one else. And you have no excuse now in Logan County not to be healthy."

By:  Michael Browning