BY VERONICA COONS
LARNED — With Kansas working hard to move up the ranks of national fitness, Larned has a shot at becoming “the healthiest little city in the state.” Those were the words of Melba Woods, whose contribution of $250,000 toward the construction of the new Dale and Melba Woods Fitness Center at Larned High School was celebrated Tuesday morning. Representatives from all over the community turned out for the dedication and ribbon cutting, and to admire the state-of-the art equipment and spacious layout.
Larned Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Alex Lessard opened the ceremony and introduced Woods and USD 495 Superintendent Joe Sample, who accepted the position after Jon Flint retired at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
“We as a community have some very special additions: this fitness center here, our weight room, and a brand new building for the elementary school,” Sample said.
The new fitness center in particular drew him to the community, he said. That, and the community support for the district displayed by a recent bond passage, and by the construction of a new elementary school, helped convince him to accept the position.
“This is a close-knit community, and I appreciate everything you have done and I look forward to working with you here in the future,” he said. He thanked Woods for her contribution to the building, and presented her with the first key card to be issued by the new facility.
“This is a dream,” Woods said. “I never once through all of this thought it would turn out to be this fantastic. I knew what was needed, but I didn’t know how to go about it. But all of these people — and then to think, this is rated tops in the United States, not just Kansas, I was blessed more than once.”
She referred to a letter from Coach Jim Brown, a clinician with Bigger Faster Stronger Inc. He has been designing and installing weight rooms for the last 30 years.
“The fitness center that has just been completed with the help of Larned School District and the gracious donations by Mrs. Melba Woods doesn’t take a back seat to any facility that I have ever been involved with,” he wrote.
The facility will open to the public on Tuesday, Aug. 1. Any patron of Fort Larned USD 495 may purchase a key card for $25 per year, and employees of the district will pay only $10. Members may access the center from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Hannah Smith will be the supervisor, and will be available during regular school hours. She can be contacted through the LHS main office. A committee of nine community members makes up the center oversight committee, and will determine the rules and regulations for the center, as well as membership for out-of-district applicants. These memberships will be determined on a case by case basis.