ELKHART — The $70 million Elkhart Health & Aquatics Center — expected to have a measurable impact on the city and the region — is finished and will officially open its doors on Thursday, officials said at a ceremony Monday.
The opening of the 171,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility this week will mark the completion of the first phase of the project located on the riverfront site of the former YMCA on East Jackson Boulevard.
Although the doors open Thursday, the larger-than-Olympic-size competition pool and the Commons, which includes space for community programs, classes and meetings, are scheduled to open on Aug. 1. The pool will host local and regional events, officials said.
The new facility is a collaboration of Beacon Health System, Community Foundation of Elkhart County and Elkhart Community Schools, with contributions from the city of Elkhart, Regional Cities Initiative and the local community.
It’s Beacon’s third health and fitness facility in the area, with others located in South Bend and Granger.
Officials and community members celebrated the completion of the facility with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday and tours were given to all who attended.
The groundbreaking for the project was in September 2017, but conversations started much earlier, said Jeff Costello, chief financial officer at Beacon Health.
“It was a little more than four years ago the Beacon Health System was approached by leaders in the Elkhart community who said, 'we have a vision of bringing a world-class aquatics facility into our community,' ” he said. “Those leaders took note of Beacon’s dedication to health and began a conversation with us about what was possible.”
The health and fitness center will offer a warm-water therapy pool, lap pool and whirlpool. Fitness studios will hold Pilates Reformer, yoga and indoor cycling classes, as well as strength, grit, cardio dance and aquatic aerobics in the pool.
Members will also have access to an indoor track, cardio equipment, strength equipment and free weights, the Aquatics Center, and basketball, racquetball and squash courts.
Costello said the project aligns with Beacon Health’s vision, which is to create health and keep people healthy.
"Under one roof, we have really a world class aquatics facility," Costello said. "We have physical therapy, sports medicine, health and fitness, and a variety of health community types of programming. So we're grateful to be a part of this."
Elkhart Community Schools Superintendent Steve Thalheimer said the facility will be an asset for the district for at least two reasons — one being the partnerships it provides.
“As a public institution, we understand the importance and the power of public and private partnerships, and as we’re moving forward with schools of study, we’re looking for ways to form partnerships with members of the community and this embodies that to the n-th degree,” he said.
Secondly, the corporation plans to provide its students access to the facility, Thalheimer said.
“This facility provides us an opportunity to provide our student athletes who engage in aquatics to have a world-class facility to participate and practice,” he said. “But we also have the opportunity to have that trickle down to where students in our elementary schools are going to have swim lessons, and we’ll be returning to our physical education programs for our elementary students in ways that use to be part of what we did. We think it’s an important skill and an important life-saving skill that students have.”
Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese said the facility will be an asset in attracting people across the community and the region to downtown Elkhart.
“Investments such as this type are crucial in our city’s continued growth,” he said. “Through hard work and collaboration, we have the ability to create a city where people want to live and where businesses want to come and thrive.”
Monthly membership fees are $49 for individuals, $79 for couples and $99 for families. Monthly swimming memberships are $20 to $79.
However, the facility is also a community asset for non-members, according to Pete McCown, president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County.
“It’s a whole slate of programming from healthy living, socio-emotional and physical wellness classes, book clubs, pickle ball and badminton leagues that folks will have a chance as non-members to participate in,” he said.
In addition, McCown said, the fitness center will have community open swim available to non-members during certain hours of the week.
The Commons area, which includes a library, meeting room and gathering space, will also be a space the community will be able to use and take advantage of, he said.
In its inception, the fitness center will generate 27 full-time positions and between 20 to 30 part-time positions, however those numbers could change, officials said.