McKinley Fitness Center up and running - and swimming and exercising

CHAMPAIGN — The McKinley Fitness Center is planning a May 29 ribbon-cutting at the old McKinley YMCA building — even though the fitness center has been operating since March 15.

"It's like our grand opening," said Donna Wright, a former YMCA employee who has been volunteering her time to the new fitness center. "We're ready to say, 'We can do this now. We're here to stay.'"

So far, the fitness center has about 100 members, most of whom use the facility's two pools — the larger lap pool with a targeted water temperature of 82 degrees and the smaller therapy pool heated to 91 degrees.

Earlier this month, the McKinley Fitness Center began offering group fitness classes in yoga, Zumba, stretching, interval training and "boot-camp" fitness, Wright said. Tai chi classes are expected to start in June.

An adult basketball league continues to use the gymnasium from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Leon Jeske bought the building at 500 W. Church St., C, and has been operating it since the Champaign County YMCA moved to its new facility in southwest Champaign in February.

The building on Church Street was originally the Phillippe mansion, a private residence built about 1910. It was purchased in 1938 for use by the YMCA, with a bequest from U.S. Sen. William B. McKinley.

Jeske has been making renovations not only to the facility's fitness areas, but also to rooms that were part of the original mansion.

On the main floor, a child care area just east of the entrance has been turned into a sitting room featuring a fireplace, area rug and bay window. To the west of the entrance is a parlor with a piano.

But the two pools are really the star attractions. Tammy Belanger teaches three classes in the therapy pool on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings — one in water aerobics and two in deep-water exercise.

She formerly taught classes at the YMCA but said she "came back here because it's home."

Belanger said the McKinley pools "work well for the over-40 crowd," thanks to the water temperature and depth.

"The reason I come," said deep-water exercise class member Jan Powers, "is the water is easier on my joints."

Plus, she said, the centrally located facility is "close, it's not clear across town."

Membership in the McKinley Fitness Center is $40 a month for individuals, $60 a month for couples. Youth membership is $20 a month.

Jeske said adult membership comes out to about $1.34 a day.

"We provide coffee, you can go for a swim, work out here, sit in the lounge and read a newspaper — all for $1.34 — and there's free off-street parking," he said.

The center is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

Wright said the center will be closed on Sundays through the summer and has shortened its original Saturday schedule by two hours. Its new phone number: 607-2476.

Besides getting the two pools back in operation, Jeske has added some new features.

Three exercise bikes are perched on a raised area overlooking the pools. Plus, decorative plants and poolside umbrellas have been placed in the lap pool area to add atmosphere.

Judy Osgood said she comes to the lap pool once or twice a week, even though she has pool privileges at the University of Illinois Activities and Recreation Center.

"I found out that hours for the lap swim are very open," she said, adding that McKinley's schedule makes it easier to fit in her half-mile of swimming a day.

The renovation is still a work in progress. Upstairs, McKinley's former board room is being renovated for a yoga studio. Across the hall, the former director's office has been remodeled for possible lease-out.

Wright said consideration is being given to leasing second-floor space for a massage therapy studio.

Margaret DeCardy of Champaign, who began swimming at the Y when she retired in 1994, said she elected to continue at McKinley because she likes the temperature of the therapy pool.

She said it was "unfortunate" it took Jeske longer than anticipated to get everything running.

But she's pleased with the repairs he's made — five shower heads are working in the locker room, rather than the three that were previously operable, she said.

"I hope people come and see this is a pleasant place," DeCardy said. "It's quiet, mature — a slightly different age bracket (from the YMCA).

"I feel like the McKinley mansion is gradually returning to what it was like when it was a mansion," she said. "I hope he (Jeske) gets support for it."

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auntsonyas wrote on May 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm

The article doesn't make it clear, is this a non-profit enterprise? Why would someone volunteer there without getting paid?

dd1961 wrote on May 27, 2012 at 4:05 pm

This is not a non-profit enterprise to answer your first question.  Your second question probably would need to be answered by Donna, but having known her when she worked at the Y for years, it does not surprise me that she is volunteering.  She is a giving person.