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Streator Y expansion could start in April

Plans for Streator’s YMCA $1 million expansion are starting to come together.

Funding comes via a donation from OSF HealthCare, which is doling out the $2.7 million that was left in the Friends of St. Mary’s fund at the time the hospital closed. Streator Y Executive Director Josh Biros said conversations have revolved around accessibility and providing engaging programming for kids since OSF announced the donation in the summer.

The Y will start what is assumed to be eight weeks of planning before construction possibly begins in April with an early fall completion date.

‘Cutting edge’ tech for kids

Biros said OSF and the Y had many conversations in the weeks following the announcement as to how the two can best work together to bring proactive health care to Streator and one of the early discussions revolved around a spike in childhood obesity rates in Streator, particularly those between the ages of 7 and 13.

“It’s just a difficult age group (to attract),” Biros said. “Between when babysitting ends and when they’re able to work out in the weight room, it’s a difficult range.”

As a result, Biros said the Y is looking to introduce technology that combines technology-based gaming with exercise. The organization is reviewing a number of technologies that utilize game mechanics to get kids interested in exercise and be fun enough to draw them back to the workout center.

“It engages kids in teamwork and it gets them out of their shells,” Biros said.

One such example utilizes the center’s climbing wall, but broadcasts interactive games on the wall.

The center also would work with students to set goals, not necessarily against each other but as a team. The space wouldn’t be available at all times but would be set up for students to come during specific staff-hosted hours. OSF would also refer children to the program in the hopes the exercise-centric mindset will stay with them throughout their life.

Biros said similar programming can be found in Bloomington and other larger cities, but there is nothing in the county similar to the proposed technology.

‘Bright’ wellness center

Another core component of the expansion is an updated wellness center.

Biros said the wellness center in the facility’s basement has worked for a long time, but the stairs can be a barrier for seniors and those with knee injuries or other mobility issues.

A portion of the cardiovascular equipment such as treadmills and ellipticals will be moved from the basement, where they faced concrete walls, to a brighter, open center after renovations. The new space will have 13 large windows and is designed to be as non-intimidating as possible.

OSF will refer people to the wellness center following completion of rehab programs.

Most of the free weights will remain downstairs, but a small free weights area will be set up in the new room.

Biros said the organization has been attempting to expand beyond “just collecting dues” and will also have new office spaces to encourage one-on-one wellness coaching as well as information on classes offered to members.

He also noted additional parking plans on the south side of the building as well as moving handicapped parking closer to the building.

The parking in front of the building has been known to be congested and that will be expanded to allow for better flow in front of the building.

Streator money to stay in Streator

Biros said where the money came from has always remained in the back of his mind through the process and hopes the citizens of Streator make the most of the facility.

He said it was also important that as much of the money as possible remains in Streator, which is why a provision was added in the contract with Troop Contractors from Willowbrook to ensure all the physical labor is done by local, union workers.

“We wanted to be able to look at a building over 30 years that was built by Streator people,” Biros said.

He said the donation came at a great time when the Y was beginning to outgrow its current space and was looking for ways to expand. Y leadership has worked with OSF to ensure its programming complements OSF's offerings. He suggested the relationship is in the early stages and there will be more updates in the coming months regarding a shared vision of providing proactive health care.

“It made great sense for them to come to us and us to them,” Biros said. “We both understand we can’t do it alone.”

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