McKinley Y building owner plans fitness center there

McKinley Y building owner plans fitness center there

CHAMPAIGN — The owner of the McKinley Family YMCA building on Church Street says he plans to open a fitness center there once the Champaign County YMCA moves out.

The new McKinley Fitness Center would offer its members use of two swimming pools and a gymnasium and — at some point — fitness facilities, said Leon Jeske, who bought the building from the YMCA last year.

The Champaign County YMCA will vacate the building at 500 W. Church St., C, at the end of the month, relocating to its newly built facility on Fields South Drive in southwest Champaign.

Jeske said he doesn't want to take members away from the Champaign County YMCA. But he wants to offer use of the centrally located swimming pools and gym to people who want recreational facilities close to the heart of the city.

Working with him in an advisory capacity to bring the fitness center about are Dan McCulley, who for two decades operated The Body Firm and Gold's Gym fitness centers in Champaign and Urbana, and Donna Wright, former membership director for the Champaign County YMCA.

The McKinley Fitness Center plans to offer swimming, basketball, aerobics, water aerobics and yoga, among other things.

Jeske is encouraging community residents to contact the McKinley Fitness Center about what they would like to see offered there — and to sign up for memberships if they're interested in using the facility. The center's new phone number is 766-5833.

Monthly fees will be $40 for one adult, $60 for two adults and $20 for youth. Families will pay monthly fees of $60 for two adults, plus $5 for each child.

There will also be a one-time joining fee of $50, but during an introductory period, that will be waived for people who are already gym members, Wright said.

Hours are expected to be 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Jeske said the center is expected to open about a week after the YMCA moves out.

The center is in the process of hiring lifeguards, water aerobics instructors, fitness instructors and yoga instructors, as well as desk personnel and custodial staff.

Jeske said he would like to work with the Champaign Park District and Central High School, in case those organizations want to use the indoor pools and gym.

Central High School Athletic Director John Woods said Central has used the Y's gym as a facility for wrestling in the winter.

"We would absolutely be interested in continuing that relationship with him (Jeske)" until a replacement for Central is built, Woods said Friday.

"I'm glad to see that facility up and running," he added. "It's obviously a historical building at this point, and we're blessed to have that option for gym space."

Jeske, McCulley and Wright say they figure they'll need to attract 500 or so members in order to make the McKinley Fitness Center pay for itself. Wright said the YMCA had about 3,100 members, including children.

McCulley said the McKinley building has been a big part of his life.

"Without all the programs, and especially the gymnastics program, I would not have been a pole vaulter," McCulley said. "I am very nostalgic about the times I have spent here."

He called himself a "cheerleader" of Jeske's efforts "to keep this type of facility in the center of Champaign."

Wright said an adult basketball league is expected to continue playing at the gym from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The fitness center would also consider renting out its facilities for birthday parties and other special events, Jeske said.

Jeske, who bought the property for $450,000 last year, has been making energy-saving improvements to the building over the past year in hopes of cutting fuel bills.

The work included replacing windows, insulating steam pipes, replacing some sections of roof, tuck-pointing bricks and repairing the brick wall that outlines the property.

The original building, constructed about 1910, initially served as a private residence. A citizens' group bought the home in 1938 for use as a YMCA, using a bequest from the late Sen. William B. McKinley. For many years, the facility was known as the McKinley Memorial YMCA.

Several additions have been made to the original house, including the gymnasium and the men's fitness area.

Jeske is also remodeling the adjacent carriage house for use as apartments.

The ground-floor apartment will have three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths, while the upstairs apartment has two bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths.

The upstairs unit is being offered for $1,200 a month, and Jeske said he will likely ask $1,300 to $1,400 a month for the downstairs unit. Both have several amenities, including heated ceramic-tile bathroom floors.

Jeske said he has done $150,000 to $200,000 of work to the main building and carriage house in the past year.

More information about the McKinley Fitness Center is available at The website went live recently, and more information is expected to be added soon, Jeske said.

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