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March 6, 2007 > Centered on fitness for life

Centered on fitness for life

By Steve Warga

Construction fencing still surrounded the mustard-colored structure on Union City Boulevard when TCV visited last week. A look past the fence reveals an attractive, distinctive fusion of lathed siding, stone columns, smoked glass and burnished steel. It's almost art deco, but without taking it too far. The central gymnasium roof arches between two flat-topped outbuildings, gracefully tying together the original Phase 1 and Phase 2 concepts. The final product is shoehorned into one of the last open parcels of land in Union City.

With a mere two days left before the Saturday, March 3, Grand Opening, workers were scrambling to complete a "punch list" of minor details that must have seemed at least eight miles long. But they met their most immediate objective which was to open for business a state-of-the-art complex offering 32,000 square feet of fitness equipment, day-care facilities, lockers and showers, spacious gymnasium, dance studio and much, much more to the ever-growing population known collectively as the greater Tri-City area.

Looking just a little flushed and frazzled, Center Supervisor Corina Hahn nevertheless found time to recount the history of this project going back about a decade to Mayor Mark Green's original vision. The mayor thought it was high time Union City provided a full-size, fitness-oriented facility for Union City residents and others. The city council quickly approved the project and staff went about turning dreams into reality.

It all sounds so easy today, but no project of this magnitude comes to fruition without a tremendous amount of effort and determination. Hahn credits retired Director of Leisure Services, Valerie Crawford, for riding herd on the thousand and one details attendant to such an ambitious start-up. Crawford's diligence helped keep the dream alive even when construction costs pushed the original price into the $14 million range from an original estimate of about $9 million. Crawford was among numerous luminaries on opening day.

Cities don't simply write a check for capital development projects like this. It takes creative thinking and careful budgeting to turn abandoned ground into a financially self-sustaining operation without imposing additional taxes on residents. Most city staff became involved at one time or another in the challenges. Grants were secured for items like decontaminating the land which once was home to a meat processing plant; finance department employees allocated monies from development funds, capital funds and other sources; engineers and planners plotted utility connections and street alterations. The list goes on. Not all municipal projects see the light of day in concrete form as quickly as Union City's signature Sports Center. It is a notable achievement.

Members will have full access to all amenities after choosing from a wide range of dues options, including corporate memberships for employees and their families. Hahn enthuses over the center's plans to emphasize education along with actual participation. "'Be a part of a healthy start,' is our slogan," she notes. She anticipates collaborations with local medical centers, including the extensive Kaiser facilities just down the street. Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD) is also partnering with the center, in particular at its sports fields located near the big Pepsi plant on Hesperian Blvd.

As membership expands, Hahn says more classes will be added in areas like nutrition and general wellness. "We'll probably work in some classes to address the high incidence of diabetes in the Tri-Cities, for instance."

Sports Coordinator Maynard Estrellado will spearhead the development of adult-oriented activities. He corralled Hahn for an impromptu game of ping-pong in the general purpose room at the building's north end during a recent Union City Chamber of Commerce mixer. Fortunately for all concerned, their employment skills far exceed their table tennis prowess!

At the other end of the wide, central corridor, decorated in brown earth tones and wood accents, staffer Robert Rubino was double-checking fittings on a line of treadmills facing a wall of flat-panel TVs tuned to different channels. "You can bring your own headphones; plug them in here; and then listen to any of the TV channels up there," he explained. A back wall of glass adds an appealing sense of openness to room.

Most of the fitness equipment comes from "LifeFitness" and is colored in matching, gray-tone schemes. These sleekly-designed pieces suggest a stylish brand of competence. Regardless of your present shape, you'll just naturally look better pushing, pulling, walking, running and climbing on these workout stations.

Immediately adjacent to the fitness center is the dance studio, with mirrored walls bisected by a ballet bar. Aerobics classes will be this room's first usage, but who knows what might come next? Maybe Union City will join the burgeoning ranks of ballroom dancing instructional classes?

Now is the time to join. Throughout the month of March, new members will receive a special gift pack with lots of goodies, and a guaranteed renewal rate for the next two years. For more information, call (510) 675-5488; or visit,

"Come on. Be a part of a healthy start!"

Union City Sports Center
Now open
31224 Union City Blvd., Union City
(between Alvarado Blvd. and Horner St.)
(510) 675-5488

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