Members of a Tauranga community gym are rallying for a final push to stop a council-controlled trading company from making a ''heartbreaking'' decision to close Clubfit Papamoa.
More than 200 people have signed a petition opposing the decision by Bay Venues to shut the gym which operates in a room of Papamoa Sport and Recreation Centre on Gordon Spratt Reserve.
The petition will be considered by the council today - 12 days before the planned closure on July 31.
Bay Venues runs all the council's leisure and sporting facilities including two other Clubfit gyms attached to Baywave and the Greerton Aquatic and Leisure Centre.
Opposition to the closure has been led by gym members Stephanie Wilkie and Bernice Mills.
''It is heartbreaking, particularly for the elderly who live nearby and can't afford the cost of getting to Clubfit Baywave. It will be an absolute loss for the elderly,'' Wilkie said.
Bay Venues has offered Papamoa Clubfit members one month's free membership at Clubfit Baywave, with no increase in fees to what they currently paid.
Wilkie said the closure went against all the council's principles of community health and welfare.
She said people liked the cheap membership that was about half the cost of Papamoa's private gyms. Students and seniors paid $9 a week and adults $11 a week.
Wilkie accused Bay Venues of being out of touch with the needs of the community.
''It is a very modest and humble little gym, and that's the way we like it. We all know one another - it's a friendly community gym.''
She said the members had been treated appallingly and Bay Venues had tried to justify its decision by saying it should be like Baywave's gym. It had been run into the ground and not marketed properly.
Mills said the first members heard about it was an email announcing it was closing on July 31. She bombarded the council with emails, resulting in a meeting with Bay Venues management and city councillor Steve Morris. The attendance included some ''very cross'' elderly gym members.
Bay Venues chief executive Gary Dawson said the sport and recreation centre did not have the capacity to grow to a level where it could offer a fully serviced and staffed gym.
Health and safety requirements meant staff should be on hand at all times to guide people on the proper use of equipment, and to keep an eye on them to make sure they were okay.
However, it would not be feasible to run a fully-serviced gym that was staffed all the time.
Two staff were currently employed at the centre - one on reception and one on overall management duties.
Dawson said if the council asked Bay Venues to provide a community gym, as opposed to the fully serviced Clubfit gyms operated at Baywave and the Greerton Aquatic and Leisure Centre, then they would have to look at it.
Papamoa Clubfit had 160 members and usage averaged only 10 people per day. The space could be better utilised by other groups, he said.
''I would say we are in touch with the community and the needs of the community.''
He said Bay Venues ran marketing campaigns for Clubfit all the time, focusing on digital marketing.
Papamoa councillor Steve Morris said if the council decided to keep Clubfit Papamoa as a community gym, then it would have to be subsidised by ratepayers. Employing someone fulltime to supervise the gym would involve a lot more costs.
Morris said it then became the entirely valid philosophical argument of whether a ratepayer-subsidised gym should compete against nearby commercial gyms that paid rates to the council.
''We have received objections for years from private gyms.''
Gym regulars and Papamoa College Year 13 students Josh Bennett and Dewalt Venter want Clubfit to remain open.
It was handy to the college and working out in the morning before classes began had become a regular part of their lives.
''Everyone is friendly, especially the staff,'' Bennett, a basketballer, said.
Interviewed outside the centre because management were nervous about allowing the Bay of Plenty Times to enter the gym, he said a lot of elderly members did not want to go to a big gym.
Unlike the big privately-owned gyms, members did not have to worry about being judged, he said.
Bennett said the advantage of the gym for him was its convenience and that it was a comfortable space to work out in. ''It is like a home away from home.''
Venter said he started going to the gym a year ago as part of a school assignment. He ended up liking it so much that he decided to stay on, motivated by pushing himself to see what he was capable of achieving.
The college's rugby players used to use the gym but they were lured away by a discounted membership to a commercial gym once the closure notice was issued.