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Dickinson's West River Community Center sees membership spike

Mac McCollum sits on a bench Tuesday outside Dickinson's West River Community Center. Matt Mack, the building's facility operations manager, said memberships increased by nearly 1,500 in the last year.

Dickinson's West River Community Center is seeing more activity, facility operators said Tuesday, adding that they issued nearly 1,500 memberships in the last year.

An oil boom has contributed significantly to the increase, said Matt Mack, the center's facility operations manager.

In addition to serving regular members, the West River Community Center is a hub for the unsung patrons solely interested in snagging $6.50 day passes, he said.

Mac McCollum may not hold a membership with Dickinson's West River Community Center, but the out-of-state oil worker said the building is a saving grace for when he needs a hot shower, physical therapy or a mini-vacation from his home on wheels.

"The rec center fills a lot of needs," McCollum said as he soaked up Tuesday's sunshine on a bench outside the building. "Therapeutically, it's relaxing."

Community center operators say they are seeing more patrons like McCollum who use daily passes that give them access to all the facility's amenities.

In addition to issuing more day passes, Mack said many people turn to the facility for day care needs.

"It's definitely a perk," he said, adding that the day care service has been a hot commodity for oil families.

Due to the membership increase, Mack said he has also added more staff. Mack also said nearly five positions were added to each section of the facility since he started working there three years ago, but he did not speculate as to how many total employees work in the building.

While Mack is excited to see more people using the building, he said the membership growth has brought challenges.

While Mack said the building is not meant to be used as a community shower, he understands that the showers are a "benefit" to members, and he does not turn people away.

Staci Moore, a control desk attendant at the center, said she also understands why certain people turn to the facility for showers. When a water heater breaks down or an oil worker living out of his car does not have a place to wash off the day, the community center is sometimes the best option, she added.

Mack and Moore expect memberships will continue to increase, and they embrace the growth with optimism.

"I think we are very, very lucky as a community to have a building like this," Mack said.

In October, Dickinson Parks and Recreation Director James Kramer said efforts to construct a swimming pool outside the center are expected to start the summer of 2014. Moore added that she does not know of any additional expansion projects.