COLUMBIA, MO -- Members of a University of Missouri-funded fitness facility for senior citizens successfully rallied to keep their health club open after its closure was announced because of budget cuts.

The Health Connection center was slated to close June 30 because of a $405,000 budget deficit, but its members organized a letter-writing campaign and town hall meeting to save the facility. They also agreed to a list of conditions to keep the center economically viable.

Conditions designed to keep the Health Connection solvent include higher membership fees, longer contracts, reduced operating hours, new member recruitment and the use of the gym as a living research laboratory.

The fitness and wellness center opened 19 years ago as part of a research study on rheumatoid arthritis. Since then, the center morphed into a workout facility with 325 paid members that is open six days a week.

Nurses have remained on duty at the center to monitor members’ blood pressure and heart rate before and after workouts.

Members cited a sense of community and increased health benefits as the reasons they wanted the center to stay open.