A physical structure to house a branch of the YMCA in Monticello could be years away – if it happens at all – but local activities provided by the Clinton Community YMCA may be on tap as early as this fall.
Last June the Clinton Y was approached by some Monticello organizers about a possible branch, since the national organization is no longer issuing new charters. The idea would be for Clinton to initially provide programming in Monticello, with thoughts towards a possible brick and mortar YMCA down the road.
Clinton Community YMCA Executive Director Rennie Cluver said it could be a natural outreach for an organization that has a high saturation rate in its DeWitt County community.
"We have a population of 7,500 people and we have over 2,300 members," said Cluver. "That’s a lot, so each year our operational costs increase and we wonder how we are going to keep this up because we aren’t getting flooded with new members who can keep up with that."
"So this would allow us to branch out our services that will not only help our Y grow, but will help plug the gaps in a community that is looking for something like that," he added. "We’ve been doing a lot in our community, but we kind of keep hitting that wall – this is as far as we can go with it, we’re kind of maxed out."
The process is still in early stages. An advisory board in Monticello has been formed, and next up is a marketing study to estimate what kind of support a branch would receive.
Steve Tenhouse, the chief executive officer of Kirby Medical Center and a member of the advisory board, thinks a Y branch in Monticello makes sense.
"I think the community has been trying to get some sort of a civic center or something like that for a number of years. When we built this (hospital) campus we always viewed it as health, business and living. So we made contact with Rennie and quickly found from the YMCA standpoint that there was a lot of interest in this area," said Tenhouse.
Clinton has a 23,000-square-foot facility that includes a four-lane pool, basketball court, wellness center and weight room, racquetball courts and meeting rooms, but in Monticello the focus would first be on providing programming at existing facilities. One idea that has been floated is a "Y Zone" before and after school program at Lincoln Elementary School, something that could fill a void now that one local day care is eliminating that offering from its schedule.
Other initial activities could include summer camps and youth sports.
"Even if we don’t build a facility, what the Clinton YMCA can offer is programming to the community where we don’t have to have it in a building," added Advisory Board Member John Frerichs.
"So if a building never happens we can still have this programming, and I think that’s what’s really exciting about it. You’ve got these two projects that are working together, but if it turns out we’re not ready to build yet, until we get to that point we can bring in programs," he added.
Frerichs admits a physical Y is the ideal, for several reasons.
"I see it more than just an activity center, or a place for physical therapy. I also feel it can be a network center. I think what it brings to the table beyond a swimming pool or bicycle program or summer camps, it’s a networking opportunity where members of our community that may not interact with others in our community can do so. And I think when you get people who are kind of like minded working together, that by product yields strong, positive relationships," added Frerichs.
The group is currently conducting a market study, said Cluver. If Clinton Y board members like what they see, the organization would apply for branch approval from YMCA of the USA.
The process has been fairly rapid in other communities, such as Toledo, Illinois, which went from application to groundbreaking for a Mattoon branch in about a year.
Membership rates would vary depending on scholarships given and what market studies help dictate, but Cluver said Clinton’s fees range from $34 to $45 for individual memberships and $55 to $62 for families.
He noted the Clinton Y gives out the equivalent of $140,000 annually in scholarships, but feels that figure would be lower in Monticello, which has a much lower poverty rate.
The Clinton Community YMCA was chartered in June of 1908 with construction of its current building completed in the 1960s.