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Kishwaukee Family YMCA CEO: Hospital health center plan not a threat

January 4, 2017 GMT

DeKALB – The leader of Kishwaukee Family YMCA says he wasn’t taken by surprise by a Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital’s bid to build a $46.4 million fitness center next door and doesn’t expect it to be crippling.

Officials at the YMCA have known about the hospital’s plans for a medically-affiliated community fitness center for years, CEO Mark Spiegelhoff said. They have studied how it might affect their organization, which includes a fitness center at 2500 Bethany Road in DeKalb.

Previous studies indicated the facilities would offer some overlapping services, and also showed about 5 percent of YMCA members could migrate to the proposed Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Health and Fitness Center.

“We’ve known about this for some time,” Spiegelhoff said. “We have a long-standing partnership with the hospital, which has been a tremendous supporter. We’ll be looking for ways to expand that partnership.”

Spiegelhoff said the two agencies had at one point discussed a joint facility, but it wasn’t pursued. He said those talks happened before he joined the YMCA in 2015. He also said that the Y’s focus would remain on serving families and that it would continue to offer scholarships.

Northwestern Medicine officials want to build a 111,105-square-foot health and fitness center on vacant land on Bethany Road. Northwestern’s proposal calls for a two-story building at 626 E. Bethany on the hospital campus.

If approved by state regulators, the Northwestern building would be erected near the north hospital entrance on Bethany, just north of the old hospital, which was torn down in 2010.

“We believe the addition of the proposed Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Health and Fitness Center will provide patients, residents and our employees with access to enhanced programming focused on improving the health, wellness and fitness of residents in DeKalb County,” Kevin Poorten, president of Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital, said in a statement.

“In addition to the new health and fitness center, we will be enhancing the hospital campus that will feature new green space, a walking path and sensory garden, all with the goal of improving the wellness of our residents.”

Plans for the fitness center include an aquatic center with two pools, locker rooms and child care services. Application materials submitted to the state review board show the hospital has final working architectural drawings for the project, but renderings of the proposed facility weren’t immediately available Tuesday.

“The fitness components of the proposed project are provided to help bridge the gap between health care and fitness by introducing post-therapeutic programs for individuals transitioning into daily activities and exercise,” according to the application. “The spaces include an indoor walk/jog track, a gymnasium, group cycling room, stretching and abdominal exercise spaces, free weights, circuit weights, mind/body exercise and a group exercise studio,” according to the application. “There will also be a fully accessible exercise pool, warm water therapy pool and hydrotherapy pools.”

The lobby would include a small retail space selling food and other items, according to the application.

It’s too early in the process to determine how many jobs could be created by the project, or how much memberships would cost, Northwestern spokesman Christopher King said. The Y offers adult memberships for $43.25 a month.

While a new hospital fitness center with similar amenities could siphon members from the YMCA, hospital officials don’t see their project as a direct competitor to the YMCA, according to the hospital’s application to the state.

“Because a medically affiliated fitness center incorporates medically-trained personnel into the staff, a safe environment is created for people with mobility challenges or those who have not typically exercised,” the application said. “Studies show that 40 to 60 percent of members of medically based fitness centers have never been a member of another fitness center.”

Before construction can begin, the hospital will need to get a permit from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board and approval from the city of DeKalb.

“In the coming weeks, we look forward to working with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board during the application process,” Poorten said in a statement.

By law, anyone can submit a written request a public hearing on the hospital’s proposal. There had been no such request as of Tuesday afternoon, senior reviewer Mike Constantino said. Written requests for public hearing must be received by the review board no later than Jan 13. No emails or faxes will be accepted.

The review board is tentatively scheduled to consider the hospital’s application at its March 14 meeting at the Bolingbrook Golf Club. A staff report on the project is expected to be posted online Feb. 28, according to the review board’s website.

If approved, construction could start in April and the project could be completed by March 2019, records show.