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Gym little used as smokers are booted from Oklahoma Capitol

It's not uncommon to see cigarette smokers lounging in their cars during the lunch hour after Gov. Mary Fallin shuttered the Capitol smoking room last summer. An expensive new fitness center opened down the hall is gaining traction, but there's still plenty of room for more users.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: May 16, 2013
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From office to gym

As of mid-April, 204 Capitol workers had gone through orientation at the fitness center and received an electronic badge to access its confines.

The facility is free to anyone who works full-time at the Capitol, and in addition to lawmakers, staff and officials the list of badge-owners includes the basement barber and at least one reporter.

The conversion from appellate court clerk's office to micro-gym, however, was not cheap.

Despite donations of several expensive workout machines, the state spent more than $42,000 to outfit the facility — and its associated shower/locker room area — with stationary bicycles, benches, stretching mats, cleaning wipes, a heart rate target poster, mirrors, a first aid kit and more.

Actual construction costs topped $100,000, but grants from the Oklahoma Hospital Association and the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust shaved almost $60,000 off the bill.

The center currently costs nearly $700 per month in janitorial services, cable for three TVs and to keep a security phone line active, said John Estus, spokesman for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Another $4,000 total was spent renovating the old smoking room, which needed to be scrubbed and painted, its ceiling tiles replaced and new heat pumps, ducts and grills installed, he said.

A plan to start charging users $15 a month will allow the state to recoup all its costs for both the fitness center and smoking room projects in about three years, he said.

Though he doesn't use the fitness center, Tim Allen, spokesman for the state treasurer's office, said the conversion project has already made his lifestyle a bit healthier.

Allen said he quit smoking cigarettes after the smoke room was closed and he was relegated to his car in the parking lot.

“The other reason was because my health insurance was going to charge me a larger deductible if I didn't quit, but it was a big factor,” he said of the change.

“I run into some of the other smokers in the hall every once in a while and we say, ‘How are you?' but yeah, that group has disbanded — or at least I'm not a part of it anymore.”