Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 13, 2013

The modern YMCA

New facility will account for the way we live today

By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — One of the big debates in the year-long design process for the new Kokomo Family YMCA concerned the racquetball courts.

The national YMCA organization has a list of guidelines for new facilities, and one of them, according to Kokomo Y director Dave Dubois, is that racquetball is a dying sport.

But in Kokomo, the Y has a core of about 40 to 50 racquetball enthusiasts, and they are loyal, longtime members. There was no way the new Y wasn’t going to have a court.

“We were told, ‘Don’t build racquetball courts,’” Dubois said.

But the Y staff has more than 200 years of collective experience, and they know the members and they know what works in Kokomo, Dubois said. That’s why the new building will have a central racquetball court with a glass wall.

The new Y, a 73,000-square-foot facility, with a health and wellness center, a lap pool, instructional warm water pool, multi-purpose rooms, a teen center, a chapel, two gyms and a running track, is expected to cost about $15 million.

Those are the basics, but in December, Y officials will begin the final push to raise the remaining funds needed for the building.

They’ve hired a construction management firm to take designs from Fort Wayne-based architects Moake Park and figure out how much everything will cost.

That process will distill details from the broad architect designs, from floor coverings to light fixtures. Around February, the management firm, Wiegand Construction, Fort Wayne, is expected to come back to the Y board with cost estimates.

A further round of value engineering will then take place, “to bring the project close to what we hope to have at the end of the day,” Dubois said. “Of course, the caveat is that we still have to raise the money.”

Some of the new Y’s features have already been more-or-less settled.

The gym, which will have two full-size basketball courts, will be a sunken court, with the basket rims about level with the main floor above.

The split-level approach will allow the Y to install a running circuit, one-ninth of a mile long, around most of the upper level, which is where the exercise equipment will be located.

On the main floor, the pool will be at one end, surrounded by locker rooms. The center of the building, however, will mostly be open space, including both a large foyer and a public meeting space, where The Huddle and other groups can gather.

There will also be a plaza area in the front of the building, facing Union Street, for additional space where people can gather.

As one might begin to suspect, the members surveys show the Kokomo Y crowd are a social bunch, quite a bit more social than Y members nationally.

So that desire to socialize — Dubois said almost half of local Y members listed relationships as the primary reason they belong — will be a part of the new building in a very specific way.

If there’s anything which has been subject to internal debate, it is probably the decision to open up the locker room areas to everyone. The current Y has men’s and women’s fitness centers, available at an additional monthly fee.

The new Y won’t have fee-based areas; instead it will have essentially three locker areas, available to everyone as part of their membership.

In addition to men’s and women’s adult locker areas, there will be men’s and women’s family locker areas, for families with children.

There will also be eight self-contained, small locker rooms, each about 200 square feet, where families or anyone wanting a bit more privacy can change.

“They’re not only for families, but for seniors, or just people who are uncomfortable in front of other people,” Dubois said.

For years, newer Y facilities have gone away from the concept of fitness center “destinations,” where some members stayed in one area to exercise, shower, sauna, etc.

“Having separate areas based on paying for service runs against everything we as Y speak to,” Dubois added. “We want to be able to provide access to everything.”

It’s a lot to pack into the new facility, but Dubois feels the timing is right, and the members are supportive of the coming changes. After all, they’ll be leaving a facility built in 1910, and expanded in 1957 and 1965.

“The first step in positive change, I’ve learned, is to believe you can do it,” Dubois said. “People here said it’s time to take control of our future. I think it’s perfect timing.”

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.