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Budget cuts -- fitness centers feeling crunch

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- With three fitness centers, all personal fitness needs should be met, but budget cuts and manpower reductions can create inconvenience.

The Dragon Fitness Center's operating hours were shortened to 2 p.m. before the holidays, but recently changed back to its original hours.

"Due to all the budget cuts this fiscal year, we lost three full time employees, most of the sports officials' budget and all our funding for aerobics instruction," said Tom Golden, fitness and sports director.

"We went back to normal hours Jan. 8 because we received three new technical training graduates," said Mr. Golden.

Now the Dragon is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The shortened hours chang-ed the workout routines of some and sparked complaints.

"I went to the Blake and I waited for 15 minutes, and there were still no open machines," said Vicki Ladner, 81st Contracting Squadron.

Golden said his office only had authorized manning for two fitness facilities, and because they lost three full-time employees, they had to find a solution.

The solution was to keep two facilities open full time while cutting the hours of one.

"Based on the data collected, cutting the hours of operation at the Dragon Fitness Center would have the least negative impact to our customers," said Golden.

"The best absorption period for the Triangle and the Blake is after 2 p.m.," said Golden.

Some people wondered if they could volunteer to help man the facility.

"We appreciate the thought of volunteers manning the facility -- unfortunately, we have to man our facilities with qualified fitness personnel who possess certification in first aid, basic life support, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and are trained on how to use aerobic and weightlifting equipment," Golden said.

The three fitness centers on base offer a variety of services for the exclusive use of personnel with Department of Defense identification cards.

The Blake is open 4:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday- working Fridays, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on down Fridays and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m, weekends and holidays. It offers a basketball court, four racquetball courts, a stretch/warm-up room, two cardio rooms, a free-weight room, two strength machine rooms, both a men's and women's steam room and sauna, a smoothie concession stand and a track.

Dragon is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-working Fridays. It's closed on down Fridays, weekends and holidays. It offers a basketball court, a cardio room, a strength machine room, a small free-weight area, an aerobic instruction room, a spin room, a parent-child fitness room, a beginning aerobics room and strength room. All fitness classes are held at Dragon.

Triangle is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-working Fridays noon to 6 p.m. down Fridays and weekends. It's closed on holidays. It offers a large free-weight room, a cardio room, the intramural and varsity sports office, a massage therapist and a track.

No dogs, rollerblades or strollers are allowed on the track and walkers and slower runners must stay to the right.

"You should know we are only funded to man two facilities on Keesler, but we manage to man three," Golden said.