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YMCA, Easterseals Break Ground On New Center

The Bloomington-Normal YMCA is breaking ground on a new facility it will share with Easterseals Central Illinois.

The nearly 70,000-square-foot facility will be located on the OSF Healthcare St. Joseph Medical Center campus on Bloomington's east side. About 7,000 square feet will be rented by Easterseals, a nonprofit serving children with developmental delays, disabilities and other special needs.

At Tuesday's groundbreaking event, B.J. Wilken, president and CEO of the Bloomington-Normal YMCA, said the new center will boast two pools, an expanded gym, an outdoor fitness terrace, community meeting space and more.

B.J. Wilken speaks
Credit B.J. Wilken speaks
B.J. Wilken, president and CEO of the Bloomington-Normal YMCA, speaks at Tuesday's event.

Wilken said it will be much more accessible than the Y’s existing downtown building that was built in the 1970s and lacks even an elevator.

"This facility that we're looking to design really incorporates a lot of universal design concepts,” Wilken said. “In layman's terms, it's taking ADA compliance and really going above and beyond that."

That includes features like a zero-depth splash pad and universal locker room to accommodate all people regardless of disability, he said.

Wilken said the new space also will allow the YMCA to meet growing demand for services like swim lessons and day camps.

“We're really trying to expand to really continue the pace of growth of our existing programs,” he said. “For example, we have over 800 kids playing in a youth basketball league and—although the COVID year is an anomaly—we've had a trajectory of 30 to 40 kids every year continue to come into the fold.”

Wilken said he’s most looking forward to collaborating with other community organizations and for the kids Easterseals serves to be able to use the same amenities as their peers.

“There are really three areas of the Y in which we focus: it's youth development, it's healthy living and it's social responsibility. And I think this facility really capitalizes that social responsibility component,” he said.

The new center is projected to open in March 2022, Wilken said. Passersby will start to see work crews on site next week.

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Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.
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