Nameless nonprofit gives to purchase expensive neighborhood health heart from Muskegon faculty


MUSKEGON, MI – An anonymous Muskegon nonprofit has submitted an offer to purchase the Lakeshore Fitness Center from Muskegon Community College.

The facility has long been a financial challenge for college leaders. In May, expensive maintenance and operating costs forced the college to close the facility.

Muskegon attorney Chris McGuigan, former director of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, made an offer to the MCC Board of Trustees on behalf of the undisclosed group at its meeting on Wednesday, February 17.

McGuigan declined to provide MLive with a copy of the purchase offer or to identify the group.

The offer is to be made contingent on the organization’s board of directors approving the offer, which McGuigan says is expected next week. She said the group’s identity will be revealed after approval.

Muskegon residents and college administrators want the facility to remain a community fitness center. McGuigan said the local organization is “ready to work with the community on future use of the facility.”

“It’s a community-based group that cares about what’s best for its own mission, but also what is best for the community,” said McGuigan.

Several trustees were hesitant to comment on the offer because they did not know the group behind it. Trustee Roy Portenga said he needed to know the identity of the organization before continuing the discussion on the offer.

“I don’t know who the organization is,” said Portenga. “This is an absurd example … but this could be the Proud Boys, just as an example of such an organization could meet our requirements to offer (the fitness center) as a public facility. But that wouldn’t be something I would like to sell to. “

McGuigan agreed to reveal the identity of the organization to the board if the trustees went into a closed meeting. The board voted to move the discussion and possibly schedule a closed session on another day so MCC President Dale Nesbary can identify the group.

The offer of the anonymous group comes after months of back and forth about the future operation of the Lakeshore Fitness Center. The college closed the 40-year-old facility in early May after recording losses of $ 2.5 million over the past five years. There was a backlash from members of the center.

In search of a new owner to pay the bills of the facility, college officials filed an application for a short-term operator of the facility in June but received no offers. The Lakeshore Fitness Center was officially put on permanent sale in August.

RELATED: Muskegon College Puts Closed Fitness Center For Sale After Losing $ 2.5M

After three months in the market, the college received an offer from Parkland Properties’ Muskegon developer Jon Rooks to convert the property into a mixed-use facility.

The building is located at 900 W Western Ave. and is in a prime location on Muskegon Lake adjacent to Heritage Landing Park.

But the college, wanting to keep the building as a fitness center, turned down Rooks’ offer.

Muskegon Community College’s gated Lakeshore Fitness Center includes some prime properties on Muskegon Lake. (MLive file photo)

When asked why the anonymous group did not make an offer to buy in the fall when the college first launched a call for proposals, McGuigan said, “Over the past week new facts have emerged that make the facility attractive to the group have made.”

The board has three main goals for the future of the facility, Portenga said during Wednesday’s meeting:

  • So that the college can relinquish financial responsibility for the expensive facility as soon as possible.
  • So that the facility remains a community fitness center.
  • So that the public access to Muskegon Lake remains in new ownership.

The college bought the 40-year-old fitness facility, a former YMCA building, for $ 1.17 million in 2015. Since then, MCC has lost an average of $ 500,000 in annual operating expenses, according to college officials.

The 60,000 square meter fitness center has a lap pool, whirlpool, weight training equipment, exercise studios, basketball courts and an indoor track. It offers exercise classes, health programs, childcare, and massage therapy.

Members of an interest group that advocated the continued operation of the fitness center were satisfied with Wednesday’s offer. The Friends of the Lakeshore Fitness Center, founded in 2019, consists of long-term members who have been committed to keeping the fitness center open.

Mary Kay Vanlente, director of Friends of the Lakeshore Fitness Center, told MLive that the anonymous offer was a “pleasant surprise” and that advocacy was on board.

“It sounded as if your goal and objectives so far matched our goals and objectives very well and our focus is not only on being a public facility for the community, but also on continuing the development of the waterfront to make it accessible make the community, ”said Vanlente.

More about MLive:

MCC confirms its commitment to the Lakeshore Fitness Center – for now

Muskegon Community College is closing the fitness center after losing $ 2.5 million

Muskegon College is putting a closed fitness center up for sale after losing $ 2.5 million