Watertown's New Wellness Center: A Look Inside

Part of a vision Watertown community leaders -including better educational and recreational opportunities

April 11th, 2017

The facilities are the $23 million dollar Prairie Lakes Wellness Center that opened its doors just last month. It's part of a vision Watertown community leaders have for their small city that includes better educational opportunities, better neighborhoods and businesses, and better recreational amenities by the year 2020.

Don't be fooled by his lack of forward progress. Today, 72-year-old Dale Valberg is actually helping Watertown get ahead.

"I can come at more than my regular time of seven to 7:15 in the morning and still get machines and be able to use the facilities," Valberg said.

"About four years ago, we had an organization called "H2O 20," and they did a survey in our community, and one of the main points of the survey, that the community wanted a facility such as this," Prairie Lakes Wellness Center Executive Director John Small said.

One of those wanting a facility like this was local OB-GYN physician Dan Flaherty, who developed a bit of a competitive streak after watching his wife get bitten by the wellness bug.

"I saw her getting fit, few years ago, and thought, 'Wow, I gotta do that, too,'" Flaherty said.

He's been doing that now for the past 15 years. In fact, he was among the center's first members which now number about 5,000.

"This is all about wellness, and keeping fit, keeping healthy, and as a physician in town, I can't think of a better opportunity to promote wellness and health." Flaherty said.

Remember Valberg? Today is actually his first day at the center.

"Where it used to be that, come noon or three o'clock in the afternoon, it was plugged up,” Valberg said. "And there's plenty of opportunity to use the facilities."

That's exactly the reaction city leaders here have been hoping for.

"It's investment for, to help bring people in, to help people stay here in Watertown," Small said.

Their vision includes making sure this center is more than a place to work out.

"It's not just the fitness part, Small said. "It's also the social aspect; we have various areas throughout the building where people can sit and visit."

Valberg, who spends winters in Phoenix, is already convinced after just one workout.

"We go to a gym there that has a lot more equipment than here,” Valberg said. "But it isn't as nice, I mean, you just don't have that real comfortable feeling that you do here. The openness, and everything."

That openness spans 104,000 square feet. It houses the things you'd expect to see in a community wellness center: around 53 cardio machines, a yoga studio, weights, and locker rooms. Yet it also has some things you might not expect: five basketball courts and bleacher seating. It's capable of hosting tournaments and cheer competitions.

"When people are looking here to move, probably the two, the three things that they look at is: the education, the medical and then also recreation," Small said.

You don't need to convince Flaherty and Valberg of the value of this new facility. Despite its multi-million dollar price tag, both would agree you can't put a price on what has rapidly become a crown jewel in Watertown.

"One of the things when you're working out, it can get kind of dull and boring, if you're just riding a bike,” Flaherty said. "But there's activity. You can watch, people play basketball or volleyball, people walking past, looking down at the television sets, so it's just more things to keep your mind occupied as you're riding away."

"Friends have been telling me about it, but I was in awe,” Valberg said. "Cause it is, it's better than what they told me, I think."

Source: Keloland Media Group

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