WEIRTON - Memberships were the focus Thursday as Weirton's park board mulled numbers, improvements and marketing strategies.
Director Terry Weigel told the board they'd contacted individuals who'd allowed their sponsorships to lapse to find out why they'd left. For many, he said it was a question of economics - they'd lost their jobs or work circumstances had substantially changed.
Others said they'd relocated across town and found it more convenient to go to a workout center nearer their new home. "Some were using facilities that were closer, more convenient, than having to drive" downtown, said Weigel, the city's Ward 7 councilman. "They were willing to pay the extra money to stay closer to their home."
Board member Ed Bowman, meanwhile, pointed out sale of membership passes was down by 82 from last year. "The biggest reason is CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funding changes - 37 memberships were not available this year because of the lack of CDBG funds," he said.
In the past, city officials had used a portion of their CDBG allotment to purchase passes for income-eligible residents.
Weigel said membership sales are about evenly split between residents and nonresidents, "and I think you'll find that with all our programs. We're not just a Weirton attraction, we're a regional attraction."
"It's all about trying to bring people into the area," Bowman said, suggesting the park board staff might consider working with the convention and visitors bureau to publicize facilities and programming to reach an even broader audience.
Bowman also commended the center's maintenance workers for their efforts, saying they do a lot with a small work force.
In other business, members were updated on renovations to the center's kitchen and men's restroom, and discussed new carpeting for one of its party rooms.
The Rotary Club of Weirton was authorized to schedule a classic car show at Marland Heights Park, provided they coordinate parking with the parks staff.
Likewise, the Marland Heights Community Association told the board the group is planning a concert at the park on May 25. The day's events, which will feature jazz performer Erin Burkette and a guitarist who performs with Prince, also may include a 5K road race and fun walk, all to raise money for the preservation of the pool. The group will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday at Lickity Splits, located at 3666 Lindberg Way, to continue planning.
The board also approved a request to use a portion of the Panhandle Trail for a 5K run on April 27 to benefit the Hancock County Animal Shelter. The out-and-back race will start at 9 a.m.