New Kid's View

Family lured Jerrianne and her husband to South Milwaukee in 2002 from Southern California where she worked as, first, a journalist, then, as a court information officer. She now stays busy with media-relations consulting, playing with her three grandchildren (part of the lure), writing, discovering her new environs, and hoping her garden will produce before the first fall frost.

Blast! of Our Past

Blast! Fitness, Ballys Fitness, YMCA

We sure gave it a go, but as Blast! Fitness cut or started charging extra for certain service, we finally gave up and Blast! is now in our past.

After Blast! bought out some of the Bally Total Fitness Centers in the Milwaukee and other areas, the Bally's-cum-Blast! in Cudahy became less and less a full-service facility. Plus, cleanliness (or the lack of) and the lack of such basics as soap in shower and sink dispensers became concerns. Blast! also elected to not repair or maintain the steamrooms, water in the showers was more often than not barely lukewarm, and a growing number of cardio and weight machines sported "out of order" signs. The bicep curl machine, which has been broken for months, was still not working as of last week. Half of the bank of TV screens in the main exercise room have been blank for weeks and no longer even carry Brewers' games.  

Parents who want to use the child-care center must be "platinum"-level members, which costs more than the basic $10-a-month membership fee. Then kids started showing up in the locker rooms. When I asked a staff person  about it, she said, "Of course, children can go in locker rooms." When I asked about the change from Bally's policy of not permitting children in locker rooms because of liability issues, she had no idea what I meant or what possible problems could arise. After seeing kids running, climbing on benches and hiding in lockers, while mothers were either unconcerned or didn't notice, I tried to avoid going to the gym during hours I knew children might be there.

Platinum-level membership, according to a sign that went up a couple of weeks ago, is also now required for access to the racquetball courts, and no guests are allowed. 

About the same time, Blast! closed the pool/whirlpool area--for good. That did it for us.

Apparently, the decline in upkeep and services was too much for others, too. We have seen a steady decline in gym use during the past two years. When we started going to Bally more than 12 years ago, parking was generally at a premium, and we frequently had to drive around to the lot behind the club to find a spot because the front and side lots were full. And Bally used to teem with gym users, compared to little more than a dozen or so most times of the day and evening these days.

When I told a few fellow Blast! members I know who still show up there that we were dropping our membership, they said the only reason they weren't is becaue their supplemental Medicare coverage includes a "Silver Sneakers" plan that pays their gym membership fee.

Not willing to give up going to a gym, we decided to give the 'Y' on College Avenue a try, despite recent news that the Milwaukee County YMCA had filed for restructuring bankruptcy. Staff there assured us that location won't be affected so far as member services are concerned.

So far, it's been a good experience. Most refreshing is that the facility is clean, well-equipped, well-staffed and well-maintained. The contrast made us realize just how shabby and rundown our former gym had become.

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