Janesville33.5°

Response to YMCA aquatic center is beyond expectations

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
August 10, 2010
— Gary Ramey has a daily craving for the Aquatic Center at the YMCA of Northern Rock County.

"I have got to get in that water," he said.


The 58-year-old rural Janesville man isn't the only one with the desire to use the center in the Y's downtown branch building, 221 Dodge St.


It was controversial when proposed, but since the center opened in December 2007, it has been used nearly 130,000 times, according to Tom Den Boer, chief executive officer.


Usage almost doubled from the first year to the second. By 2009, the center had been used more than 44,600 times. In the first six months of this year, the center has been visited 31,253 times, he said.


"We knew the aquatic center would be a good, solid project and predicted usage would increase with program opportunities, but the response is more than we expected," Den Boer said.


The number of aquatic center visits is on pace to reach 65,000 for 2010, he said.


"The only time it's shut down is for maintenance," Den Boer said.


The aquatic center has a zero-depth entry pool, mini indoor water park and physical fitness/recreation and lap swim components, Den Boer said.


"So if you're looking for a one-stop shop, we've got a lot of different options in one setting," he said.


But the center was controversial in the beginning.


The $1.2 million project generated opposition from swimmers who didn't want the Y's larger lap pool converted into a playground for children. Board members rejected bids for the project when they came in over budget, and a board member resigned. Still, the project moved forward and was completed only six weeks later than planned.


A national award in July from the YMCA of the United States might validate the vision of the local Y leaders. The award honors the Y for its comprehensive building projects, including the aquatic center, which increased facility usage and fits the Y's mission of building strong kids, families and communities.


Ramey began using the aquatic center as part of his daily exercise routine when he joined the Y in May of 2009. Since then, he has lost 150 pounds.


He prefers the current channel and its 86-degree water that he said provides a more vigorous workout than swimming in a lap pool. He also participates in the center's water aerobics class, water zumba and water volleyball.


Ramey said the Janesville Y has everything you need and want in a Y except a deep-water pool.


"But you can still get a good workout," he said.'


Ramey's improved health is proof of that.


"I'm no longer on blood pressure or diabetes medicine," he said.


Don Taber is reaping the benefits of the aquatic center, which was recommended by his doctors, his wife, Diane, said. The 87-year-old rural Janesville man and his 76-year-old wife visit it three times a week. It helps her cope with her arthritis and helps his neuropathy.


"He's had strokes, heart conditions and uses it to get the exercise he needs. That's what keeps him going," Diane said.


Mercy Health System is referring patients to the aquatic center as part of its therapy and prescription-treatment plan, said Dr. Karen Bridge, a chiropractor with Mercy's Complementary Medicine Center.


"The Y is the only place in Rock County where they can go that specifically has the water walking channel," she said. "So, it's unique."



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