Ask the Truth: Will Elkhart have an equivalent to the Elkhart Youth and Community Center to serve its needs?


When news broke that the Elkhart Youth and Community Center would close last March, many of its instructors and students didn’t know where else to go.

But the Elkhart-South Bend area could get $42 million in state funds through the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative, and that could mean the EYCC building and its surrounding area could have a new lease on life. The Regional Cities of Northern Indiana put forward a plan, called Innovate Indiana, which includes a proposal for a wellness/natatorium/community center and several new athletic fields near Jackson Boulevard. The Indiana Regional Development Authority is still deciding how to distribute the funding.

There’s also an agreement forged last October between Elkhart Community Schools, the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and the Beacon Health System to work together on a new health and wellness facility in the city.

And in the wake of the EYCC’s closing — which needed more repairs than its revenues could support — city departments and local businesses stepped up to fill the gap in services. 

The Elkhart Parks and Recreation Department, for one, opened up the Pierre Moran Pool last summer to some of the former EYCC patrons, including members of ADEC and Lifeline Youth Ministries, Superintendent Karin Frey said. The department also allowed senior dance group The Rockerettes to continue practicing at the High Dive Park pavilion, 500 E. Beardsley Ave., though Frey said they have since moved to a different venue.

Frey said the Parks Department doesn’t have any plans to cover more of the services left in limbo after the closing of the center. If it did, it would be contingent upon the city’s budget. If the city’s facilities are “appropriate for what their needs are,” she said, then the city should help fill the gap in services. 

The Tolson Youth and Community Center saw an uptick in the number of people who use its exercise facilities, Director Clyde Riley said. Before EYCC closed, Riley said the center had about two or three people a day who paid to use its exercise equipment. These days, he said, the center gets about eight or nine people a day.

“It’s not overwhelming, but it’s an increase,” he said. “Private citizens come in for the exercise programs, which includes strengthening and conditioning.”

There also are more people attending senior programs on Mondays and Thursdays, which include exercise, games and other activities, Riley said. What used to be about 20 to 22 people per day, he said, has ballooned to 40 to 45 people.

Riley said while that growth came after EYCC closed, the Tolson Center had been actively recruiting before then.

“We got more phone calls and people needing a place to work out,” he said. “While the increase in attendance hasn’t been significant, it’s been steady.”

The Gaska Tape Fitness Center offered to pick up where the center left off, but Health and Wellness Director Terry Jackson said they later realized it would have been more complex and costly than they thought. One of the problems they faced was providing child care services on site for parents while they exercised.

Those services later moved to the Eastlake Athletic Club. It includes some of the center’s most popular fitness classes, personal training and Silver Sneakers, a senior physical fitness program. At the end of April 2015, the club had hired six former EYCC instructors and added 13 classes to its schedule. They also negotiated with the EYCC to purchase some of its equipment for fitness classes and 300 pounds of dumbbell weights.

To solve the child care issue, the club hired a part-time worker in the nursery and had plans to find two or three more. They also removed a chain-link fence on one side of the building for more parking space.

The Elkhart Flames Soccer Club took over the co-ed youth soccer league, now named Elkhart Youth Soccer, for the EYCC last summer. The club held a free soccer clinic and practice session in April and started playing games in May. Club representatives couldn’t be reached by this story’s deadline.

Some EYCC instructors also pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and started their own businesses, such as dance program coordinator Robin Reveal and Robin’s School of Dance at 141 Easy Shopping Place.

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