Future of Vale fitness gym unclear

Questions linger regarding the ultimate fate of FitCity gym in Vale. Last week the city of Vale turned off the water to the fitness center. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – The red “open” sign still shines in the big picture window of FitCity, and if you step inside, the TV on the wall continues to blare.

On Monday morning, though, no one was there exercising.

Last week, the city of Vale turned off the water to the popular local fitness center at 181 A St. and questions remain about its future.

The man who leased the Vale building – Fruitland resident Casey Bonner – dropped out of public view shortly after the FitCity facility in Ontario closed. Since then rumors have circulated about why Bonner closed the Ontario facility but so far hard facts about his motives are hard to come by.

What is known now is that the Vale FitCity remains in limbo. The owner of the building, Thomas Hamilton, said Monday that he doesn’t plan a change in tenants.

“I would like to give Casey a chance to make good on his contract,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton wouldn’t go into detail regarding his contract with Bonner or how much he owes but he said he wants to keep a gym going in the Vale facility.

One person who may be interested in the Vale gym is Jim Smith, who owns The Body Shop Fitness Center in Fruitland.

“We could get it back up and running and have it operational in a few days,” Smith said. Smith also owns fitness centers in Payette, Weiser and Emmett.

Smith said he is working out a deal to take over the now-vacant FitCity building in Ontario.

“And I have had a lot of inquiries about Vale,” said Smith. Smith said Hamilton also told him that he wanted to wait to see if Bonner could fullfill his contractual obligations.

The FitCity facility in Ontario closed abruptly last month after more than 10 years of operation.

Cassie Delamare, the former manager of FitCity in Vale, said she was surprised by the sudden closure of the Ontario fitness center.

“I was told everything would be OK. It kind of came out of nowhere. Rumors fly and that’s all I know,” said Delmare.

She subsequently quit her Vale job.

Allegations of fraud surfaced not long after Bonner closed down the Ontario FitCity. Travis Johnson, Malheur County undersheriff, said his office is still investigating about 10 separate reports.

“I think a lot are going unreported,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the reports of fraud are all under $50 each. The civil enforcement section of the state Justice Department also has opened a consumer fraud investigation, processing eight complaints. The agency said others can file complaints by going to the website oregonconsumer.gov.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.