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URBANA — The park district that brings you the annual Turkey Trot, the Anita Purves Nature Center and Crystal Lake Park wants to add a brand new amenity to help boost health and wellness in the community.

That is: A brand new health and wellness center.

But first the Urbana Park District wants to hear from the public about what kinds of amenities and services should be included. A public open house to provide some input will be held from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday at the district’s Phillips Recreation Center (505 W. Stoughton St., U).

Park district Executive Director Timothy Bartlett said a health and wellness center is a much-needed asset that could help the community — from young kids to older adults — get moving and stay more active.

The park district currently leases gym space at Champaign County’s Brookens Administrative Center, and that lease will be up in 2021, Bartlett said.

That gym is used for sports activities, but it has limitations — among them in programming hours and the fact that it can hold just one activity at a time, he said.

To help develop plans for a new health and wellness center, the park district has been working with a facility designer and an advisory committee, Bartlett said.

District representatives have also visited health and wellness centers in about 15 different communities in Illinois.

What they observed at these centers was that they were generally scheduled with activities morning through evening, Bartlett said. They also provided some open times for facility uses — something the Urbana park district would like to offer the public — and they were “social beehives of their communities,” he said.

What the park district is considering building is a 40,000-square-foot center for multi-generational use at a cost of about $10 million — to be funded without a tax increase, Bartlett said.

It would potentially include a multi-court gym facility; fitness equipment; a raised and elevated track; meeting spaces for arts, crafts and cultural activities; locker rooms and a kitchenette.

This facility could also help provide drop-in activity spaces — for example, providing a place to go for teens who want to shoot hoops and a place for families to stay active when the weather isn’t great for outdoor activities.

“If you have seven months of weather like today, where do you take your kids to burn off energy?” Bartlett said.

To help pay for the new center, the park district hopes to secure $2.5 million in state grant funding, he said.

The district also freed up $5 million by refinancing existing bonds with more favorable interest rates, and would potentially use half that money to make a total $5 million available for the new facility, with the rest raised through private donors, Bartlett said.

If necessary, the park district could potentially phase in the development of the new center, with gym and fitness spaces being the highest priorities to provide first, he said.

Where this center would be built remains under consideration.

The state grant funding will be prioritized in favor of projects using sites the applicants already own, Bartlett said.

The sites the park district is considering are all open land, he said. Some park district land — such as Crystal Lake Park — would be off limits because indoor recreation facilities can’t be built on properties that were acquired with land and water conservation funding, he said.

“It basically knocks out a lot of potentially good sites, but we have a couple of sites that could work,” Bartlett said.

News-Gazette