It’s clear that The Source is unlike most other Missoula health clubs the moment you walk in the spacious 24,000-square-foot, three-story facility on South Russell Street.

For starters, there are hardly any mirrors on the walls, and you won’t find a single weight scale. There’s a slow-cooked oatmeal bar and a cafe, large swinging glass doors that open to an outdoor grotto, an automated climbing wall and a massive children’s gymnastics room.

The Source held its grand opening on May 1, and marketing team leader Jen Iverson said the point of the facility is to improve the health of the community in many ways, not just in body tone and muscle mass.

“We saw a need for a fitness facility that focused on family health and focused on teaching people really about health instead of focusing on outward appearance,” she explained. “So we really just wanted to become a facility that was affordable to everyday people and families and encouraging for people. If you come here and you just have a coffee and sit in the steam room, but you feel comfortable and welcome and invited here, then we’ve done our jobs really, really well. And if you happen to come here and find better health,

then all the more so. We really want to be a hub for our community in that way.”

Owner Dallas Neil, a Great Falls native, played football for the Griz and earned a master’s degree in business from UM before playing as a punter and tight end for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets. After injuries cut his professional football career short, he moved back to Missoula. He owned Lifestyle Fitness on Reserve Street before opening The Source.

“I always went to the gym, and I decided I wanted to be an owner because I thought it would be fun and I would get free smoothies,” he jokes. “But I didn’t realize how much work it would be.”

Neil is emphatic in his belief that health clubs should be about community building rather than bodybuilding.

“We don’t even have weight scales, not that they’re a bad thing, but it becomes all you’re thinking about when you get into this environment,” he explained. “And the more you look at yourself the more you don’t interact with other people around you. That’s just unhealthy. So that’s how you keep the culture really mellow. It’s because you don’t have that ‘What am I wearing today’ feel, you know? And then just people feel comfortable. It’s like I did 20 minutes of this today and I feel good about myself, rather than being so comparative. It works.”

Neil said the secret to health isn’t in regimented training programs.

“We’ve tried everything in terms of health, and willpower doesn’t work, having a program doesn’t work,” he said. “Community works. When your friends go someplace and there’s people there that are friendly, that’s what we’ve found that works almost every time. People say that it’s a place they want to go, it’s fun, and it’s almost like being on vacation. They see people that they like. That’s what works.”

Neil said that although The Source has professional personal fitness trainers, he doesn’t believe that strict workout routines are successful for regular people.

“That only works for the elite,” he said as he flipped burgers for the grand opening celebration. “They’re really into working out, they’ve been to every club in town, they know exactly what they’re going to do and they have a strict eating regimen. That’s only like 2 percent of the population. It’s not what most people do. Most people need community to make it work. That’s my opinion.”

The Source features a rock climbing treadmill, probably the only one of its kind in Missoula. It shuts off automatically if you get too close to the floor, and can be adjusted for speed and pitch angle. The gym also has a couple of Hypervibe machines that cause muscles to tone due to extreme vibrations. Another feature is the virtual workout class room, where customers can punch up a Jazzercise or a yoga class on huge video monitors at any time they wish.

“They’re really becoming popular across the country because they accommodate different schedules,” Iverson said. “From graveyard shifts to stay-at-home moms to doctors, everyone has a different schedule. This gives people a structured workout on their own time.”

The club also boasts the longest indoor running track in Missoula, steam therapy rooms in the locker rooms, a 30-minute tension band circuit area, a half-court basketball court in the group fitness classroom and a reading lounge.

The Totes Ma Oats oatmeal bar and the Lighthouse Bistro lease space in the lobby of The Source. The café features an espresso and smoothie bar, sandwiches, salads, frozen yogurt and other food.

The club will offer summer camps for kids for $50 a week, and the child development center offers climbing ropes and gymnastics equipment for kids on the second floor.

“We focus on gymnastics and creative movement,” said kid’s program team leader Lindsey Schwickert. “It’s a great way for a kid to work on balance and self-esteem and work on respect, not only for themselves but for their classmates and teachers. We work on not only the physical aspect of fitness but social, emotional and intellectual fitness as well.”

Neil stressed that the most important reason to visit The Source is to have fun.

“Most health clubs you go into will be like, you need to do this, and it doesn’t fit your lifestyle because you’re becoming something you’re not,” he said. “I have no problem with someone that just wants to join to sit in the steam room. Maybe they just want to de-stress for a minute. I needed to destress, too. It doesn’t have to be all about pounding the iron, or you know, what your weight is. De-stressing is a big deal. We’ll have better kids if parents are less stressed out. That’s why we want to grow into infant care and mommy-and-me things, is to get the family involved. I want to make it about the community. I want it to be a fun atmosphere.”

Neil said he also wanted to make sure that the monthly membership fee of $29.99 was reasonable for all Missoulians, not just the elite.

“I want it to be for everybody,” he said.

The Source is located at 225 S. Russell St. For more information visit thesourcemissoula.com.

Reporter David Erickson can be reached at david.erickson@missoulian.com.

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