By Marshall V. King
The Elkhart Health, Fitness, Aquatics and Community Center will be a new home for high school swim teams and community members wanting to socialize and get a workout.
It’s also designed to be a gathering spot for book clubs, card games, yoga classes, and people working on their health, whether it’s to maintain it or get it back.
The plan is for the programming to be crafted as the building itself is constructed, but Pete McCown, president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, can envision on any given day, the center will have volleyball league games, community open swimming, triathletes gathering to train, a healthy cooking class and a Medicare enrollment event.
Video tour of aquatics center
The building is coming together quickly and will open next spring. A crane placed the diving platforms, weighing 76 tons, before the building took shape around them. Nearly half of the 170,000-square-foot building now has a roof. The pool has arrived from Italy and is waiting to be assembled, said McCown and Shelley Moore, president/founder of Insight Strategic Concepts Inc.
Just over a million dollars is still needed to complete the fundraising for the $69.5 million project. Elkhart Community Schools, Beacon Health System, Regional Cities, the Community Foundation and so far nearly 150 private donors have given to help create one of the premier aquatic centers in the Midwest. The city of Elkhart helped with grant funding and infrastructure, particularly as the 10-acre site becomes part of the proposed 105-acre River District. The aquatics center, as its been called initially, will get a new name in the coming months and is expected to be a hub for a range of activities.
It will be the third health and fitness center for Beacon Health System. Memberships will likely go on sale this fall and cost $49 to $99 a month. Employers are already starting to talk about how to support the health and wellness of employees by helping pay those fees, said Moore.
“To be sustainable, this has to be a revenue-generating facility,” she added.
But it won’t only be a place where members jog on a treadmill or churn through laps in the pool. Physical therapy and sports medicine will happen in the new space. “For us what this represents is part of the evolution of health care where fitness is the new medicine,” said Alan Loyd, director of Beacon Health & Fitness.
In South Bend and Mishawaka, Beacon is offering health care that can be more convenient, faster and less expensive because it happens alongside fitness activities. Classes tailored for people suffering chronic conditions will be offered in Elkhart to help improve the quality of life for people in this community, he said.
The goal isn’t to take business from health clubs. “We are a health care organization,” said Loyd. “We want health clubs to do well and succeed.”
This won’t just be for members either. Non-profits and schools will use it. Open swims and gym time for the public will be offered. Gathering spaces and a library will be open. Parks around the center will likely get makeovers, with additional trails to pave the way for outside exercise, said Moore.
Eventually, the site will become a reputable destination for regional swimming and diving events. Planning for those happens well in advance and proposals will be submitted for potential 2019 meets, said Moore.
This large facility will offer so much, but just how much will be an ever-evolving process learned through local and regional community engagement.
Marshall V. King is a Goshen-based freelance journalist. He wrote this on behalf of Vibrant Communities.