Budget cuts lead to changes for Semper Fit

4 Dec 2014 | Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

In response to significant budget cuts slated for fiscal year 2015, the Semper Fit Division of Marine Corps Community Services aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River diligently brainstormed ways to minimize the impact to the thousands of patrons it serves; however, some changes are on the horizon.


With a 48 percent smaller budget, changes were inevitable, but leaders throughout Semper Fit worked hard to create solutions they believe most effectively meet the needs of patrons while working with the reduced budget. Marine Corps Headquarters evaluated programs/services and deemed them as essential or nonessential. Programs categorized as nonessential are required to be self-sustaining and self-supported.


Changes include small fees for some services, as well as closing and reducing hours of operation to facilities throughout the department.


The changes are coming in response to budget cuts across Marine Corps Community Services worldwide.


Use of fitness centers is still free for authorized patrons, however some services provided at the centers now cost a few dollars.


Because the group exercise program has been unfunded, group exercise classes will now cost $3 per session, or $25 for a 10-class punch card, bringing costs down to $2.50 per class.


 The fees will be used to keep the classes going, as they have brought in more than 50,000 patrons annually.


“We’ve put in every effort to make it as low of a price as we can and still offer it,” said Paul Nilsen, the director of Semper Fit. “We’re just trying to break even.”


More than 40 group exercise classes meet throughout the installation for yoga, cycling and many other fitness courses.


“There are a good variety of classes,” the Swansboro, North Carolina, native added. “There is a class for every interest.”


The classes have certified instructors and bring an element of fun to leading a healthy lifestyle, said Nilsen.


Workout towels will no longer be free to use at fitness centers. Gym and fitness center patrons will be able to exchange a token, costing a one-time $10 fee, for a towel at any center throughout the installation. When the customer returns the towel, they will receive their token to be used again in the future. Tokens never expire. Guests of the facilities are also welcome to bring their own towels.


Towels taken from MCCS facilities cost Semper Fit more than $6,000 in the first four months of 2014. In 2005 more than $16,000 went to replacement towels and since then, the numbers have grown to $45,000 in 2012 and 2013.


“It’s added up quite a bit,” said Nilsen.


The fees are a way to minimize the effects of the budget cuts on consumers while continuing to provide towels and group exercise classes.


Outside of fees, the budget cuts have also brought closures and changes in hours of operations to Semper Fit facilities.


New hours were determined by evaluating usage and with command input, said Nilsen.


Hours at all fitness centers have been adjusted. Those hours went into effect Nov. 1 at most locations. More changes are coming in mid-December to include the turning over of gymnasiums to area commands.


Semper Fit gymnasiums, which are attached to fitness centers, will remain managed by Semper Fit.


Semper Fit does more than manage fitness centers, and each branch within the division, including Recreation, Sports, the Single Marine Programs and others, may see varying effects from the budget cuts.


The SMP implemented new hours at its recreation centers in October.


“The reduction in hours will have an impact but we’re still open enough hours that Marines can visit our facilities in the mornings, afternoons and evenings,” said Susan Goodrich, branch head of the SMP.


The SMP will continue to offer trips to single service members and volunteer opportunities to the military community.


The Recreation Branch has already seen the effects of budget cuts with the closure of the Midway Park Community Center however, services provided there can be found at the Tarawa Terrace Community Center.


“The program has transitioned to one location,” said Patsy Schneider, the recreation branch head with Semper Fit. “We will still be able to offer programs at both facilities. A lot of what we do is not facility based. We’re mobile.”


Staff will continue to host fun runs and other events for the Midway Park community.


Pools throughout the installation will also see some changes. Services at the Area 2 Pool will soon focus on fitness and training while the New River Pool, which has better accessibility and is more family-friendly, will focus on recreation.


Centralizing aquatic services at separate locations will save resources while providing as many classes and programs as possible, said Schneider.


Some recreation programs and classes may change prices; however the Recreation Branch has kept the same mindset as the rest of Semper Fit: Keep fees as low as possible to break even.


This is not the end of free fitness and recreation aboard MCB Camp Lejeune and MCAS New River. Despite changes, many Semper Fit services will remain free.


“We have worked hard to remain affordable and to make sure there are still free opportunities for all,” said Schneider, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. “We are doing our best with what we have to be good stewards to service members’ money. We will continue to make good choices to give our customers the programs they want.”


In the wake of losing more than $4 million in funding, leaders throughout Semper Fit Division will continue working to create a balance between minimizing costs and maximizing services.


“The future is still uncertain, but we’ll continue to offer the best services we can,” said Nilsen.