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New Ottawa YMCA at riverfront moves forward

A telephone survey taken last April showed nearly equal preference for a new Ottawa YMCA at either the riverfront or on Main Street next to Ottawa High School. City officials will draft a development contract for the transfer of the site to the YMCA for $1.
A telephone survey taken last April showed nearly equal preference for a new Ottawa YMCA at either the riverfront or on Main Street next to Ottawa High School. City officials will draft a development contract for the transfer of the site to the YMCA for $1.

The Ottawa YMCA now is on course to build a new facility at the site of the old Central School track near the Illinois River, which was one of four possible locations.

The YMCA’s proposal is to break ground in spring 2020 for a 38,500- to 52,000-square-foot recreation center featuring a gym and indoor pool, which would be built in 18 months at a cost of $13.7 million to $17.3 million.

Tuesday evening, without discussion, the Ottawa City Council unanimously voted to accept the proposal by the YMCA and send it to the city staff for review and recommendation.

“We have to negotiate a contract,” Mayor Bob Eschbach told The Times after the meeting. Eschbach said he thought the council would vote to make the proposed contract public at its next meeting.

Initially, there were four proposed sites for the new YMCA.

Besides the riverfront location was land on Main Street adjacent to Ottawa High School on its east side.

The other sites were on Norris Drive across from OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center and at Interstate 80 and Route 23. 

In early April of last year, a Georgia consulting firm did telephone interviews with more than 600 households, about 45 percent of which were contacted by cellphones. Also interviewed were 100 randomly selected member families of the YMCA.

On the question about location, the two downtown sites were preferred. The riverfront had a slight edge over the Main Street location, but the Main Street location had a slight edge between the two as a first choice. The difference “was not statistically significant,” the report said.

Other conclusions and recommendations in the consultant’s report include:

• “The study revealed considerable additional interest exists for the new Ottawa YMCA.”

• “Great price sensitivity was revealed among prospective members. Considering lowering rates for the new Ottawa YMCA is strongly encouraged.” Lower rates would allow more households to participate, but also achieve more revenue, the consultant said.

• “Findings reveal that community characteristics include an inactive population, a very crowded marketplace, a slow growing population, good awareness of the YMCA name and a large number of former members. These characteristics would create opportunities and challenges for the new YMCA.” Only 42 percent of households indicated they currently engage in any type of physical activity, lower than the national average of 48 percent.

• “The study revealed the primary prospective member groups include families with children and active older adults/seniors, many are health-seekers.”

• “An indoor facility with approximately 45,438 square feet is recommended if the decision is made to establish the new Ottawa YMCA at either downtown Ottawa location.”

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