Published: Feb 16, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 15, 2013 10:25 AM
I’d like to respond to some letters that have been published in this newspaper from Y members concerned about the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA’s recent decision to renovate by removing its racquetball courts in order to make room for more wellness space in its Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard facility.
First of all, as the board chair, I appreciate the feedback and respectful suggestions we get from our members. It helps the board and staff to be more informed when we make decisions.
As we make decisions about how the Y serves the community, we are driven by the most pressing needs of our membership and the community. With a focus on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, we weigh the biggest needs of our membership and neighbors against what we’re able to accomplish in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Orange and Chatham counties. And as much as we’d like to meet everyone’s needs, we have to focus on what we can do and what can impact the greatest number of people in the greatest way.
As we respond to those needs, it’s important that we listen to our members and be prepared to respond to what is in the best interest of the majority of them. For the past several months, we’ve been doing monthly surveys asking how we can get better.
Over and over, the vast majority of our members have told us that our wellness space is too small, too crowded, and needed to be updated. They expressed frustration at having to wait for equipment, not being able to use machines, and about the general crowded state of the wellness floor. Every month, as we collected data from hundreds of surveys, nearly 45 percent of people who said they were unhappy with the Y listed this as the reason they wouldn’t recommend the Y to friends, family or neighbors. One of the Y’s areas of focus, a fundamental piece of what we do, is healthy living, and with our current space, we can’t serve our membership and the community in the best possible way.
In addition, a major capital expansion isn’t an option for us at this time. We simply don’t have the funds or the means to raise the money to add on to our facility at 980 MLK Jr. Blvd. With that in mind, as we looked at areas of our Y that could be repurposed, we decided to focus on racquetball. There is a small group of members that use the courts, and we don’t discount the passion they have around the sport, the community they’ve built together or its importance to them. However, it is one of the most underutilized areas of the Y.
In addition, even at capacity, it can serve a very small number of people. For example, that space is approximately 1,600 square feet. By comparison, our current wellness floor is only 1,400 square feet. At capacity, the racquetball courts can serve eight people per hour. Our wellness floor had nearly 35 people using it this morning. And that’s not taking into account the fact that the racquetball courts usually sit empty for up to five hours a day.
So as we looked at the entire Y, this area made the most sense to renovate and repurpose. With that added space, we’ll be able to offer more equipment, including treadmills, bikes and elliptical machines (we have nearly 4,900 adult members, and only eight treadmills in our current space). We’ll also be able offer more individual workout and stretching space to improve over the small, crowded and loud hallway spaces near the current racquetball courts. We’re even looking at ways to expand group exercise and programs designed specifically to fight the obesity epidemic with these spaces.
We’ve arranged an agreement with the Lakewood Y and are working to see if there are any opportunities to partner with UNC to provide alternative arrangements for the current racquetball players. Again we understand how important racquetball is to those players and want to offer options to them. We also continue to finalize exactly what the wellness space will include and hope to share those plans as they come together.
The Y is excited about growing to meet the community needs rather than remaining the same as our community changes. Again thank you for your concern and for your support of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA.Dabney Grinnan is the chairwoman of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA Board of Directors.
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