published Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Chattanooga wellness center opened to city employees


by Cliff Hightower
Blondel Garner of Human Services and Chattanooga Head Start works out Thursday at Well Advantage, the new fitness center for city of Chattanooga employees, located on East 11th Street.
Blondel Garner of Human Services and Chattanooga Head Start works out Thursday at Well Advantage, the new fitness center for city of Chattanooga employees, located on East 11th Street.
Photo by John Rawlston.
BY THE NUMBERS

• $4.1 million: Cost to build wellness center

• 140: Average daily visitors at new center

• 50: Average daily visitors at former 10th Street center

• 418: Number of new members since it opened

Source: Chattanooga

  • photo
    Jessica Stephens, a certified pharmacy tech with Well Advantage fills a prescription while cashier Rena Caradine picks up an order for a customer.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Police Officer Bakari Welles used to have a membership to The Rush.

But no more.

He dropped it when the city's new wellness center opened.

"I've canceled all my memberships," he said.

The $4.1 million wellness center opened to city employees in February with a full pharmacy, health clinic and fitness center. It replaced the old wellness center on 10th Street near City Hall.

Jenny Lowry, the city's wellness and safety manager, said the new facility has attracted more members. The center gained more than 400 new members and averages 130 to 140 visits a day, compared to 50 to 60 at the old fitness center.

"We have the space available to offer more," she said.

The 20,000-square-foot facility has the free weights, weight machines and cardio equipment common in private gyms. In the back of the building, a test kitchen is set up so a chef can come in once a month and teach healthy recipes.

The waiting area boasts an Xbox 360 with Kinect so people can play games that keep them active.

The health clinic has 14 examination rooms. Lowry said the clinic has reached 100 percent capacity each day with appointments. The pharmacy fills about 250 prescriptions a day and also has over-the-counter medications.

About 60 percent of the city's 5,000 employees and retirees on the city's health plan use the facility in some fashion, Lowry said.

Mike Jones, a retired Public Works employee, said he started coming to the facility as soon as it opened.

"I come here for all my medical needs," he said. "I wouldn't go anywhere else."

He said he saves money by using the pharmacy. For example, Thursday he went in to pick up three prescriptions and paid $9. He would have paid about $150 for the same medicines outside the city's pharmacy, he said.

Lowry said the numbers of people using the new center will only grow.

"We knew it would increase numbers," she said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.

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