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SIU Carbondale
SIU Rec Center community membership hits all-time high

CARBONDALE — As declining enrollment leaves a little more room on the tracks, StairMasters and swimming lanes at the Southern Illinois University Student Recreation Center, residents are turning out in record numbers to fill the facility up.

Community memberships reached an all-time high during Fiscal Year 2018, as did memberships sold to SIU faculty, staff and alumni, according to data obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.

That’s thanks to competitive pricing and a renewed focus on local marketing at the university and across Southern Illinois, said Corné Prozesky, the Rec Center’s interim director.

“There’s better community attendance than ever,” Prozesky said. ”We want to make this place a value for the community. We consider it a gateway of communication, between the university and the residents of Carbondale and neighboring towns.”

From FY 2017 to FY 2018, faculty and staff memberships increased 45 percent, to 1,370 memberships sold, while alumni memberships increased 41 percent, retired and emeritus faculty memberships rose 48 percent, and community memberships rose 37 percent.

“We’ve really been pushing our marketing in the last two years,” Prozesky said. His team hired a graphic design and social media specialist, filmed a TV commercial — now running on local stations — and updated the Rec Center’s website, allowing patrons to buy and renew memberships online.

The Rec Center also created new, “alternative” membership plans, like the senior citizen limited membership: A reduced-price plan that grants daily access to patrons 65 and over during the morning and early afternoon hours when the fewest students use the facility, Prozesky explained.

The membership has grown rapidly since it was introduced about three years ago, reaching 238 seniors in FY 2018.

“We’re trying to create value-added memberships,” Prozesky said, “offer new programming, and keep the hours as long as we can.”

In recent years, the decrease in student enrollment has caused some cutbacks at the Rec, which receives the great majority of its funding from student fees. In the fall of 2017, after a two-year budget impasse that devastated university budgets statewide, the Rec narrowed its operating hours, reduced the number of graduate assistantships it granted, and closed a satellite facility on Thompson Point.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler 

Members of the Saluki Swim Club swim at the SIU Student Recreation Center on Thursday afternoon. Memberships at the rec center are at record levels.

But along with those reductions, the center has found ways to expand, developing new programs and spaces, based on fitness trends and student demands.

“There’s a big demand for mind-body wellness,” Prozesky said. “More yoga, meditation, pilates.”

One new class has attendees doing yoga in the middle of the Rec Center pool, while balancing on stand-up paddleboards. Elsewhere, members will soon be able to track their workouts with the help of heart rate monitors that connect to their phones, or to TVs throughout the gym.

Recent renovations have transformed eight of the Rec’s 16 racquetball courts into spaces for cycling, martial arts, dance and other activities.

Through it all, Prozesky, who has been at the Rec for 14 years, says he’s proud of the gym’s value.

“We have not increased membership prices in the last five years, nor student fees in the last six years,” Prozesky said. “We know every dollar counts.”

Currently, a yearlong membership for a local resident unaffiliated with SIUC will run $442, while alumni will pay $400, faculty and staff will pay $350, emeritus and retired faculty will pay $345, and current students pay about $135 per semester, charged via student fees, Prozesky said.

Exercise is costlier at the University of Illinois, in Champaign, where a yearlong membership runs $645 for those not directly affiliated with the university, $595 for alumni and $480 per year for faculty and staff.

SIU Rec Center celebrates 40-year history

CARBONDALE — Past and present employees of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Student Recreation Center gathered Saturday to celebrate the facility’s 40 years of service to students and the community.

In Marion, residents pay $480 a year, plus an $80 enrollment fee, to work out at The HUB, their $12 million, 45,000-square-foot gym, built in 2014. Joining the Carbondale Gold’s Gym will cost at least $525 this year, between membership and fees, according to the Gold’s Gym website. That includes free access to other Gold's locations around the country.

Costs at many gyms increase if a membership is paid in monthly installments, though the Rec Center remains one of the cheapest local options on a monthly payment plan.

However, some Southern Illinois residents have complained about the increasing price of day passes for nonmembers.

In the early 2000s, Rec Center members could sponsor their guests for just a $2 refundable fee. Then, the cost rose to $5, nonrefundable, leading one graduate student to write in a 2007 editorial to the Daily Egyptian, “I am appalled by all the new ways SIU is trying to extract money from its students.”

Today, a nonmember day pass costs $10.

Prozesky acknowledges day passes are expensive.

“We want people to look at the financial sense in buying a semester or annual pass,” Prozesky said, which averages about $30 a month, the cost of visiting just three times as a nonmember.

Many patrons appear to be taking the bait, as the increase in long-term memberships has been mirrored by a sharp decrease in day passes, down to 8,213 issued in FY 2018, from over 17,600 in each of FY 2014 and FY 2015.

While the 213,747-square-foot facility’s first priority will always be its students, Prozesky assures there’s plenty of space for more community members to join the gym.

“There’s absolutely more room,” Prozesky said. “This facility was designed with hopes of 30,000 to 40,000 students at SIU Carbondale, so we can handle quite a few more people.”

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Williamson County
Freddy's, Lavish Bath Box among new businesses in Marion; mayor says Camping World is still coming

MARION — Drive by the old Gander Mountain store in Marion, and there are signs of hope. A couple pieces of equipment and a car or two are in the parking lot.

In May 2017, Gander Mountain put up “going out of business” signs after the company filed for bankruptcy and was sold to Camping World. Although Camping World issued a statement saying the Marion store would remain open, the store closed in August.

Marion Mayor Anthony Rinella said Camping World is still coming.

"They plan to open March 2019," he said.

Rinella said Lowell Anderson of Anderson’s Warehouse Furniture has purchased the Sears building on the west end of the Illinois Star Centre Mall.

Anderson’s Warehouse Furniture in Pittsburg was destroyed by fire on June 30. The business had been an anchor in the small Williamson County community since Bill Anderson opened it in 1970. His son and daughter-in-law, Lowell and Michelle, took over operations in 2001 and opened a second location in Herrin. The business has operated out of the Herrin location since the fire.

He added that there are several deals on the table with businesses looking at opening in Marion.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers opened Dec. 18 at 2700 W. DeYoung St. The Marion Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon cutting for the restaurant at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 11.

Lavish Bath Box opened at 605 Tower Square Plaza on the Marion square on Dec. 12.

“Bath and Body Works decided not to relocate in Marion (from the mall), so we got Lavish,” Rinella said.

Bath and Body Works was among the tenants still operating inside the Illinois Star Centre Mall, which is set to close. A judge last month ruled that the mall's owners could begin terminating leases with tenants, but a closure date for the mall has not yet been set. 

Lavish specializes in handmade bath and body products.

618 Tap House, a pub and bar, opened in November at 2703 17th St. It has a full menu of food, along with 31 draft beers — including local selections, mixed drinks, wine and bourbon.

Rinella expects some growth around planned road projects, too. A new road project recently completed at halfway road, and several others are in the works.

Rinella said more information will become available after some business deals are finalized.

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Carbondale Liquor Advisory Board sends ordinance to City Council allowing alcohol delivery

CARBONDALE — An ordinance to allow some parties the ability to deliver packaged alcohol in Carbondale was OK'd by the city’s Liquor Advisory Board and will be passed on to the council for consideration.

Spurred by the entry of ride-sharing and food delivery company, carGo of Cape Girardeau, the LAB again took up discussion Thursday of whether to advise in favor of passing such an ordinance.

The board reviewed comparable ordinances from other municipalities when considering the city’s proposed language before Thursday’s meeting and members came ready with questions for carGo Vice President of Market Development Shad Burner.

Burner explained that carGo, which started alcohol sales in its home market in Cape Girardeau this summer, has a model that allows for checks on purchasers — people placing orders have to enter a birthday before seeing alcohol menus and the driver has to check the ID against the name on the order. No match means no delivery, and a re-shelving charge as well as a return fee.

A chief concern for members of the board was who was responsible for an underage sale. It was proposed that when a store, through a delivery service, makes a sale to a minor, the transaction could be considered illegal and fall on the business even though they had little to do with the sale.

Burner had an answer for that, saying no transaction is complete until the driver makes the hand-off. No funds are transferred to the business until the driver OK’s the sale. He said all of their drivers have received alcohol sellers and servers education and training. Burner also said drivers who deliver alcohol have to be 21 years old.

Burner said he believed it is “important that culpability be transferred to the driver” when it comes to underage alcohol sales.

City Attorney Jamie Snyder said the way the language is currently written, there is a minimum fine of $1,000 plus court costs to any delivery service who sells to an underage person. He said he believed this steep fine would help the market self-regulate.

Another question was whether to impose volume limits on how much could be delivered at a given time. However, this was quashed.

“The key is to run parallel to what the store can do,” Burner told the board. He said if they don't have limits, neither should delivery services.

Before Thursday’s meeting, Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams said the city’s interest in alcohol delivery is just to keep current with transportation and service trends. He said with the arrival of carGo and similar ridesharing and delivery services, the city wants to make sure it’s supportive of these businesses.

Snyder also saw the city getting out ahead on the issue was being business-friendly.

“I think we need to be looking forward (from a business perspective),” Snyder said. He added that cooperative business partnerships like what carGo and other services have with local businesses is the future.

Williams said it’s still a relatively new venture for many municipalities, but so far research hasn’t found any major problems.

“The conversations we’ve had at the staff level, we haven't discovered anything that causes us a lot of concern,” Williams said.

Williams said there actually is the possibility of alcohol delivery would help deter impaired driving.

“Our hope would be, perhaps in some cases, rather than somebody driving that shouldn’t be driving to get alcohol later in the evening (they would use a delivery service),” Williams said.

Burner also expressed this sentiment Thursday.

Steve Payne sits on the LAB and is owner of Quatro’s Deep Pan Pizza — he said in an interview before Thursday’s meeting that it is still too soon to form an official opinion as a member of the board.

As a business owner, he said it’s also hard to form a solid opinion — he is already in the delivery business and said he would have to see how the economics shook out before deciding to offer a cold six pack to be delivered next to his pizzas.

Still, he can see the appeal.

“If the economics make it worthwhile, my suspicion is you’ll a number of folks in the delivery business consider it,” he said.

Pelosi sees 'new dawn' for 116th Congress

WASHINGTON — Cheering Democrats returned Nancy Pelosi to the House speaker's post Thursday as the 116th Congress ushered in a historically diverse freshman class eager to confront President Donald Trump in a new era of divided government.

Pelosi, elected speaker 220-192, took the gavel saying U.S. voters "demanded a new dawn" in the November election that swept the Democrats to a House majority and are looking to "the beauty of our Constitution" to provide checks and balances on power.

Pelosi faced 15 dissenting votes from fellow Democrats. But for a few hours, smiles and backslapping were the order of the day. The new speaker invited scores of lawmakers' kids to join her on the dais as she was sworn in, calling the House to order "on behalf of all of America's children."

Even Trump congratulated her during a rare appearance at the White House briefing room, saying her election by House colleagues was "a tremendous, tremendous achievement." The president has tangled often with Pelosi and is sure to do so again with Democrats controlling the House, but he said, "I think it'll be a little bit different than a lot of people are thinking."

As night fell, the House quickly got to work on the partial government shutdown, which was winding up Day 13 with Trump demanding billions in Mexican border wall funding to bring it to an end. Democrats approved legislation to re-open the government — but without the $5.6 billion in wall money, which means it has no chance in the Republican Senate.

The new Congress is like none before. There are more women than ever, and a new generation of Muslims, Latinos, Native Americans and African-Americans is creating a House more aligned with the population of the United States. However, the Republican side in the House is still made up mostly of white men. In the Senate, Republicans bolstered their ranks in the majority.

In a nod to the moment, Pelosi, the first female speaker — who reclaimed the post she lost to the GOP in 2011 — broadly pledged to make Congress work for all Americans even as her party readies to challenge Trump with investigations and subpoena powers that threaten the White House agenda.

Pelosi promised to "restore integrity to government" and outlined an agenda "to lower health costs and prescription drug prices and protect people with pre-existing medical conditions; to increase paychecks by rebuilding America with green and modern infrastructure from sea to shining sea."

The day unfolded as one of both celebration and impatience. Newly elected lawmakers arrived, often with friends and families in tow, to take the oath of office and pose for ceremonial photos. Then they swiftly turned to the shutdown.

Vice President Mike Pence swore in newly elected senators, but Senate Republicans under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had no plans to consider the House bills unless Trump agreed to sign them into law. That ensured the shutdown would continue, clouding the first days of the new session.

McConnell said Republicans have shown the Senate is "fertile soil for big, bipartisan accomplishments," but the question is whether House Democrats will engage in "good governance or political performance art."

It's a time of stark national political division that some analysts say is on par with the Civil War era. Battle lines are drawn not just between Democrats and Republicans but within the parties themselves, splintered by their left and right flanks.

Pelosi defied history in returning to the speaker's office after eight years in the minority, overcoming internal opposition from Democrats demanding a new generation of leaders. She will be the first to regain the gavel since Sam Rayburn of Texas in 1955.

Putting Pelosi's name forward for nomination, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the incoming Democratic caucus chair, recounted her previous accomplishments — passing the Affordable Care Act, helping the country out of the Great Recession — as preludes to her next ones. He called her leadership "unparalleled in modern American history."

One Democrat, Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, cast her vote for Pelosi "on the shoulders of women who marched 100 years ago" for women's suffrage. Newly elected Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, an anti-gun violence advocate, dedicated hers to her slain teenage son, Jordan Davis.

As speaker, Pelosi will face challenges from the party's robust wing of liberal newcomers, including 29-year-old New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has risen to such prominence she is already known around the Capitol — and on her prolific social media accounts — by the nickname "AOC." California Rep. Brad Sherman was to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump.

Republicans face their own internal battles as they decide how closely to tie their political fortunes to Trump. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy's name was put into nomination for speaker by his party's caucus chair, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the daughter of the former vice president. He faced six "no" votes from his now-shrunken GOP minority.

As McCarthy passed the gavel to Pelosi he said voters wonder if Congress is "still capable" of solving problems, and said this period of divided government is "no excuse for gridlock."