The Flin Flon Weightlifting Club and its main weight room at the Flin Flon Community Hall are now under new management. Its operators have reracked their weights after 45 years of running the enterprise.
Larry Edworthy and Dennis “Rugged” Hyndman took the gym over in 1977 and until earlier this year, ran it as a passion project. Since when Carl Sexsmith operated a gym in the bottom level of the hall in its early days, a gym of some sort has always been shoved in the back of the building.
The weight room has taken on several different forms since the building’s construction - at one point it was a boxing gym complete with a ring, later becoming a smaller gym with rudimentary equipment, then expanding, more than doubling in size. Edworthy and Hyndman would pay rental fees to the City for the space and in exchange, would run the gym themselves, buying their own equipment and keeping track of members themselves.
Membership dues from the frequent users would go toward replacing any worn-out equipment, buying new weight plates and dumbbells and paying off the rent to the City for the space. Neither Edworthy or Hyndman wanted to get rich off having the weight room around - they merely wanted to break even.
Sometimes, gear costs would jump - proprietors had to take out loans to afford new equipment twice. In total, the pair incurred tens of thousands of dollars in costs to replace gym equipment.
“Everything you see in here, we brought in,” Hyndman said. That includes weight racks, a squat rack, an elaborate cable machine system, spin bikes and a Smith machine - a large weight bar fixed within rails, usually used to squat or vertical press weights safely without risking having a bar go flying.
“It’s never been an easy thing to do. All the weight stuff is pretty heavy, always - putting in the floor was a huge deal because everything had to be moved, then you put down a piece, then move it again.”
News of the gym spread almost entirely through word of mouth - while membership was never huge in numbers, the centre saw a smaller and devoted following, forging relationships in iron that lasted for decades.
“This was the gym that was more of a family if you belonged to the gym,” Hyndman said.
“We’re a family and everybody was really helpful to everybody else.”
That included keeping membership costs low - as recently as last year, the membership broke down to about 17 dollars per month.
“Part of our agreement with the City to be able to rent the space was to make it affordable to city residents and maintain it. We've had a pretty good run and a lot of good members have gone through here,” said Hyndman.
Despite the lower costs, some members did try to eke out free workouts or try and game the system created by the two operators. At first, both Hyndman and Edworthy changed the lock every year and gave new keys out to paying members - a way to catch out anyone who hadn't paid recently or was borrowing a friend's key.
As is typical in weight rooms, friendly competitions would take place, even amongst its proprietors, who often held their own showdowns on the bench press - Hyndman is quick to point out that Edworthy is the one who often won those.
“One of the rumours is that I always outlifted Larry - I'll put a stop to that right now,” he quipped.
While Hyndman and Edworthy ran the weight room for 45 years, this year was time for a change for the two. Earlier this year, the pair transferred ownership over to the City of Flin Flon, with the City putting pen to paper on the deal back in April.
“Forty-five years is enough,” Hyndman said.
“All in all, it's been a great time. We even had a few years where we used to have Christmas parties.”
While the City will now take over running the gym, both Hyndman and Edworthy will stay as life members.
Some changes have taken place under new ownership - membership costs have already been doubled, going from $200 a year to $400, with different rates for students and seniors. That extra money will go into further renovations, replacing or fixing up equipment or fitting in an air exchange system.
“We had conversations and we're not going to make anything crazy out of this. It's going to stay a weight room, there's going to be some machines. We want to provide something for the people in the community,” said City of Flin Flon recreation director Andrew Smith.
“Obviously, we have a little more leeway and access to funds for us to improve it, which we will be doing periodically - every year we’ll put a little bit more money into this place. We’re not going to be changing everything. We’re going to keep it as normal as possible.”
Despite the new management, Hyndman and Edworthy both plan to come back and are happy for the experiences they’ve had during their time running the room.
“We’ve had a bunch of great people with common goals - to work out and get along,” Hyndman said.