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YMCA interested in Greenwood

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The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis is interested in building a new gym and indoor pool in Greenwood, now that a market study has found there would be enough interest to support it.

A consultant determined that enough people would go to a proposed Johnson County Family YMCA to build it at Freedom Park in Greenwood. YMCA of Greater Indianapolis President and Chief Executive Officer Eric Ellsworth said he found survey results encouraging and would bring the findings to his board, which would have to approve the proposed 51,000-square-foot facility.

The YMCA then would raise donations from the local community in order to build the fitness center, which would include weight and cardio machines, free weights, group exercise rooms, a gymnasium and an indoor pool.

The facility would be built at the 79-acre Freedom Park on the city’s southwest side next to a $10 million aquatic center that Greenwood would build.

If a YMCA facility is built in Greenwood, outdoor features — including a moderately sized water park, an outdoor trail, and an outdoor high ropes course and climbing tower — also were recommended by the consultant who did the study.

The YMCA study’s findings were announced before a crowd of business leaders and city officials Tuesday at Dye’s Walk Country Club on State Road 135, less than two miles from the proposed site of the Y.

Mayor Mark Myers called the project a public-private partnership that would help improve the community.

“As mayor, I’ve been involved in quite a few things: the Interstate 65 interchange, Worthsville Road, the purchase of the Presnell building, which will be our new city offices,” he said. “But this joint venture is the most exciting thing I have done. The public’s been excited about this and have been asking me if it would really happen.”

Construction likely would be at least a few years off. Planning, fundraising and building a new YMCA often can take 5 to 15 years, Ellsworth said.

The process of opening a Greenwood YMCA could go a little faster since the site already is picked out and the city is offering land at the park, he said.

Ellsworth said it’s likely he would recommend a Greenwood facility to the board after a study by Atlanta-based FourSquare Research Inc. found that 5.5 percent of households surveyed expressed a great deal of interest in a new YMCA in Johnson County and would be willing to sign up as members.

That level of interest is higher than the national average of 4.5 percent, consultant Li Li said. She believed a Johnson County YMCA would attract enough members and bring in enough revenue to be successful.

The area has several private gyms, such as LA Fitness and Curves, but more than 55 percent of residents who were surveyed are physically inactive, Li said. The number of people who don’t get any exercise has been growing every year, and a new YMCA branch could help address that issue in Johnson County, she said.

FourSquare Research Inc. surveyed 800 residents in the Greenwood area, including 200 current members of Baxter YMCA on the southside. They were asked about how much exercise they get, whether they’d go to a new YMCA, what features it should include and where it should be located.

Residents were asked whether they’d prefer to see the YMCA in Freedom Park, Craig Park in the Old Town area or at State Road 135 and Stones Crossing Road.

Most of the 600 surveyed residents who aren’t current YMCA members said they’d prefer a Freedom Park location, Li said.

About 15 percent of current Baxter YMCA members who were surveyed said they would work out at the Freedom Park facility, instead of driving up to the southside Y.

Typically, about 10 to 15 percent of members of an existing YMCA branch transfer when a new one opens nearby, but the gyms can quickly make up that loss of business, Li said. The current YMCA gets less crowded and draws new members, who might have been put off by waits to use treadmills or other equipment.

An estimated 2,400 to 3,000 households, including some who already use the Baxter YMCA, would go to the new Greenwood facility if the YMCA offered discounted memberships that would give users access to that branch only, Li said. She recommended lower memberships rates since the average income in the area is about $57,000, which is lower than the national average.

With the discount, a family membership for only the Johnson County YMCA could cost an estimated $62 a month, or $52 a month for a single parent and children.

The study found that interest increased in using the new YMCA branch if people had to pay less, Li said. Most households are willing to spend only about 1.3 percent of their overall income on a gym membership, she said.

Even with lower rates, the YMCA still could bring in up to $3.6 million in revenue a year, or enough to be viable, the study found.


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