When Pasadena Police Commander Kelly Evans heard about an empty office space in the basement of the department, he knew what he wanted to see in the vacant room: a gym.
Not just an average one with a couple of treadmills and a handful of weights. What he envisioned was a fitness cave where music is piped through a state-of-the-art music system, high-definition televisions grace the walls, and gym equipment can compete with the popular CrossFit studios.
Evans, who knows a thing or two about construction, took on the challenge of creating Pasadena PD’s brand new gym. Not just so they could save money, but also because as a 35-year veteran in law enforcement, he has long held the belief that fitness is an important part of being a police officer – both mentally and physically.
But it is also the one thing that is easily skipped.
“This job can be very sedentary. But then, all of sudden you can go from sedentary to physical. You’re chasing someone who is resisting you, they are jumping walls, going over fences or they are trying to fight you,” Evans said. “You have to be prepared.”
Evans, along with Todd McDonald from the Pasadena Police Officers Association, created a survey to ask fellow officers what they were looking for in a gym. Once they received the results, they were able to cherry pick from the ideas to design the new gym.
Construction took a little over a year, with Evans coming in most weekends to turn the 1,000 square feet of empty space into an enviable place where police officers can hit the boxing bag, lift weights, do burpees, row, or run on the treadmill before their 7 a.m. shift.
The new gym cost $110,000 and the funding came from donations from the Pasadena Police Officers Associations, the Athletic Association, and the Relief Association, Evans said. They also received donations from retired police officers who had been using the gym for decades and wanted to give back.
Retired Sergeant Clyde Ito donated $10,000 toward the new gym. He considered it paying it forward for all the years he used the Pasadena PD gym since he started working there in 1978. These days, Ito works part time as a background investigator for the police department and can still be found on most days running on the treadmill at 3 a.m.
“I am not a health nut. I just wanted to give back,” Ito said. “This job can be sedentary and couple that with what shift you are working … it can be hard to get quality food. And if you work graveyard, you eat and then you want to eat again. It can be pretty bad and things can get screwed up.”
The old Pasadena PD gym is now closed and the new gym has been open for business and steadily increasing its employee visitors as the staff begins to notice how things have changed. The colorful weight room comes with a boxing bag, a rowing machine, three treadmills, a new stationary bike, two elliptical machines, hand weights, kettle bells, and plenty of space for strength training on mats.
“There isn’t a mandate or physical fitness standard that police officers have to meet, unless it starts to affect their job,” Evans said. “But the hope was if officers saw all the new equipment, they would come more and take advantage – and they are.”