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Mother's effort gets teens into fitness center

(ran West edition)

B.J. Erwin received a pleasant surprise at Thursday's City Council meeting: She came to ask for a rule change and found it already had been done.

Thanks to Erwin, teenagers can use the fitness room at the Ronald P. Forbes Recreational Center, beginning Monday.

Erwin's husband wanted to work out with their 17-year-old son, but Pinellas Park prohibited anyone younger than 18 from using the weight room, even with adult supervision. Her son is an athlete who plays varsity football, wrestles and participates in other sports.

Erwin said she contacted Bally's Fitness and Gold's Gym as well as Largo and Clearwater recreation centers and found out they all allow teenagers to use the weights.

So she called council member Rick Butler and asked him to intervene. Next, she came to the City Council meeting to plead her case.

"I'd like this revised," she said. "We have a lot of athletes here. . . . Part of working out is weight training. . . . Let's look into it again and open our doors like other centers have."

Then she got the news: The Forbes Center will open the fitness room to 16- and 17-year-olds from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. starting Monday. They also will be allowed in the fitness center at night if space is available, but adults will have priority.

From June 6 through Aug. 15, the Forbes Center will be open extended hours. During those weeks, 16- and 17-year-olds can use the fitness room from 9 to 10:30 p.m. as well as the afternoon hours.

The teen schedule "will allow the adults that are currently using the room to maintain their workout schedules," said a memo from recreation director Joel Garren. "Also, allowing this age group to use the fitness room from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. will be a good draw for the teenaged children and it will make good use of the extended hours at the center."

Erwin was thrilled.

"It's done already! Yea!" she told council members. "It sounds wonderful. Better than I thought."