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Locals purchase Prairie City gym, rebrand it 163 Fitness

Published: Thursday, April 13, 2017 9:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, April 13, 2017 1:44 p.m. CST

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PRAIRIE CITY — When Real Fitness owner and trainer Molly Keitges announced in early February she would hold her final Prairie City class before March, it took many of the gym’s regulars by surprise.

Keitges began Real Fitness’ Prairie City studio in April 2011. What began with two morning and two evening classes has expanded to a full six-day per week schedule with a range of cardio, strength, range of motion and interval training group workout courses.

The Real Fitness owner will be concentrating efforts on her Knoxville studio, where she resides, in order to spend more time with her young family.

But Real Fitness goers feared a local workout void. After Keitges’ announcement, four Prairie City citizens made the quick decision to purchase the small-town gym and keep the doors open. Max and Patty Keuning and Dan and Phrana Myers are now owners of the gym, which has been rebranded 163 Fitness.

“Initially, there was a rush to figure out how to keep this open. Because there is certainly a need,” said new general manager Brent Fridley.

The concern was the local option would be gone for people who want the services of a gym but have little time in their schedule to commute to Newton, Pleasant Hill or Altoona. To keep the center going, Fridley and the owners only had about three weeks to reinvent the small gym on South Commerce Drive.

To manage the day to day operations, the new owners hired Fridley, a 36-year-old Hampton native, who has lived in Prairie City for the last 10 years. Full-time, he’s a senior account manager at ITA Group in West Des Moines. But Fridley holds degrees in exercise science and health promotion from Central College, so stepping in to 163 Fitness, he said, feels natural.

The new owners and general manger sent out an informal interest survey via social media to gauge the local demand. What they received back, Fridley said, was overwhelmingly positive.

The gym was already widely used by people not just from Prairie City and Monroe, but Colfax, Runnells and other surrounding communities. More than 160 people responded to the survey, all indicating the need for the gym’s door to remain open.

“It made loud and clear that something needs to stay around,” Fridley said. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind because in a short period we have had to figure out how to get this started up.”

163 Fitness had its first class March 6, preceded by an open house March 5. Fridley said he wanted an opportunity for people to see the new equipment, meet trainers and sign up for classes.

“We’re intentional about that so there isn’t a long lapse in routines for people,” said the new general manager. “We’re going to repaint, get new equipment in and update the sound system.”

For March, Fridley kept the class schedule consistent with what was offered under Keitges, and all the trainers have agreed to stay on under the new ownership.

The 163 Fitness general manager said there is a social aspect to group fitness which people find appealing, and they do plan on adding classes to the gym once the transition has settled. Some ideas include yoga and one class catering to the male audience. Offerings like basics, strength training and total body burn will remain.

The gym posted a new monthly rate in March. For $50, patrons can get an unlimited monthly pass. For high school and college students, this rate is $35.

There is an $35 punch card option which is good for six classes per month. The final option is a $7 “drop-in” to let people pay as they go.

Fridley plans to write a regular fitness blog on the facility’s new website 163fitness.com. This is also the place for gym members to keep up on class schedules and monthly rates.

“We don’t want to fix anything that wasn’t broken, by any means. But we also want to be able to put our own spin on this, too. Add some new things people haven’t experienced before,” he said.

Contact Mike Mendenhall at mmendenhall@newtondailynews.com

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