- Associated Press - Sunday, October 30, 2016

MACON, Ga. (AP) - After more than a century of prominence in the lives of Macon residents - a place where thousands of children learned to swim and others played basketball, ran or lifted weights - the Macon Health Club will soon close for good, officials said.

The downtown building, which opened in 1908 as a YMCA, is full of history.

Baseball great Pete Rose lived in an adjoining dormitory when he played for the Macon Peaches, The Telegraph reported (https://bit.ly/2dUGzUh). Bob Hope and Doris day used to visit. Heavyweight boxer W.L. “Young” Stribling once trained there, the Macon newspaper reported.

Navicent Health, which owns the building, plans to shut down the Macon Health Club Dec. 31, the company said in a news release. Current members of the club will be offered a one-month free membership at the Wellness Center about 6 miles away, Navicent said.

Navicent intends “to transition its fitness services solely to the Wellness Center” on Northside Drive, the release said.

The Macon Health Club has a rich history, “however, the time is right to do what is best for our members by offering them the upgraded amenities that remain true to the caliber of care that Navicent Health is committed to offering our community,” Tim Slocum, vice president of system support services for Navicent Health, said in the news release.

The Macon Health Club was known as a cross-section of rich and poor, black and white, The Telegraph reported.

Among the notables who once frequented the place was Oscar Bradley, who worked out six days a week and was once written up in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” for his ability to walk on his fingers. He once high-jumped 27 inches pushing off the floor with his hands. He finished every workout by throwing exactly 428 punches while shadow boxing.

The swimming pool, once fed by the chilly waters from the underground spring at nearby Spring Street, was later heated.

But like many old YMCA buildings across the country, it has struggled to remain open.

The City Club, a private, white-table cloth dining club on the top floor, closed for good in 2008 after efforts to raise money to reopen it failed.

During its heyday, the Health Club had 1,000 members, but by 2010, it had about 475 members, taking a big hit after Mercer University opened its new University Center. Its membership had catered to downtown businessmen and members who had been coming there since they were children.

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