The Salvation Army's new Kroc Center sparkles.
From a small indoor water park complete with a water slide to two
spacious basketball courts to large weight training and cardio
centers, even state-of-the-art bikes in its spinning room, it seems to
Even a banquet area that can be divided into three, plus another one
across the hall.
But two South Bend entities that figure to possibly be affected by the
site claim no fears at this point.
In fact, leaders at the Michiana Family YMCA and Century Center both
welcome the new facility.
A good thing
"We feel good about it," said Dan Asleson, who is in his second year as
CEO at the Y. "It's like a $60 million investment in our community. And
$50 million is from outside the community. That's just a good thing."
Plus research has shown him that proximity to facilities is the key
determinant to where people work out.
"That's another thing that factors into our thinking about the Kroc
Center," he said. "People are willing to drive about 12 minutes
according to our research to be physically active."
"So when you look at it, having that diversity with the Kroc Center
now, serving the west part of town and ours on the east," he said. "They
are going to be serving a different part of our city geographically.
We look at where our members are from, and they are pretty tight
around our YMCA."
Century Center General Manager Jill Scicchitano also does not see the
new facility as a threat, even though any part of the Kroc can be
rented for conferences, proms, birthday parties and any number of
events. One difference: The Kroc won't allow any alcoholic beverages.
"Looking at what that center really represents, as I understand it,
they are serving an important need for the community, certainly for
community-based organizations," Scicchitano said. "But what we're
going to focus on, certainly at the Century Center, is bringing
out-of-town visitors to the market."
"They are serving a local need for meeting and banquet space. It's a
wonderful asset for the people of South Bend."
And, Scicchitano added, the new facility is one among many competitors
Plenty of room
With the YMCA, there may be a bit more duplication of services than
Century Center. But again even with the fitness and swimming
components, Asleson is taking the approach that the Y welcomes the
greater emphasis on fitness.
"I look at it and I think that there's plenty of need in the community
for the kinds of programs and services that we offer and what the Kroc
Center offers," he said.
He's toured the Kroc Center and had conversations with Majors Bob and
Collette Webster of the Salvation Army, who will run the Kroc Center.
"People want to compare the two since both have gyms, workout
facilities and swimming pools," Asleson said. "But while there's some
overlap in programming, there are also unique offerings in
Plus, Asleson notes, membership is up about 11 percent at the Y,
compared with the same time a year ago. It now has 8,000 members plus
several additional thousand who take part in various programs the Y
offers but are not full-time members.
"The YMCA has had major upgrades," noted Beth Mengel, the Michiana
Family YMCA's director of communications.
A whirlpool is currently being added next to the indoor swimming pool.
It's one of several renovations the Michiana Family YMCA took on this
year, overhauling the front entrance and two locker rooms, moving the
free weights to a room with windows, removing an unused stairwell,
replacing the TVs in the fitness room and adding fresh paint
The YMCA also features Cybex fitness machines, a cardio room, five
racquetball courts, free child care for two hours for members with
kids ages 6 months to 11 years and an indoor driving range and putting
surface. There's also Wi-Fi in a small vending area that overlooks the
pool so parents can work on the Internet while watching their kids
"Definitely (the Kroc Center) is something we've thought about," Mengel
said. "But both of us are nonprofits, so it's not a head-to-head
competition. It's an opportunity for both of us to advance our mission."
"And theirs is a completely different mission than ours."
Mengel says the Y has made major investments in staff and facilities
to address two of the biggest needs in the community increasing the
graduation rate and reducing obesity.
The Y now offers cultural celebrations monthly focusing on various
heritages and ethnic groups. It's also just opening up the YMCA's
Innovation Delta on Sample Street, an after-school program aimed
directly at high school kids who are at risk of dropping out, Mengel
"We also offer year-round camping experiences at YMCA Camp Eberhart,
which is part of our association," Mengel said. "That includes eight
weeks of summer camp, plus the camp is used by local schools and
schools throughout the Midwest for two- to three-day periods during
the school year."
Asleson also believes the Y's more people-oriented approach is paying off.
"Our staff is very committed to the relationships with members," he
said. "And I think our building staff has strong relationships with
each other. And it's given us opportunities to grow."
And the Y is not a static organization.
"We're always looking to expand our reach into the community while
remaining committed to our core location," Asleson said.
It's worth noting that Grand Rapids is in the second year of having a
Kroc Center co-exist with its YMCA, which has six full-service area
Kroc in Grand Rapids
Cyndy Vogt, marketing director of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids,
says the Kroc Center there has had no effect on membership.
Among its six facilities is one that is the second-largest YMCA in the
nation, 159,000 square feet, she said. Water parks are found in some
of the others.
"We kind of have a footprint that covers all the neighborhoods of the
city," she added, noting membership there is 42,000 for all the
facilities. "The nice thing about the Kroc Center is that it's located
in a part of the city that has been fairly underserved. So, it's really
been a blessing to all those people to have something that has been in
walking distance and close at hand."
Her thoughts echo Asleson's.
"We believe that there is really room for everyone in the community,"
she said. "Everybody is looking for something different."
Asleson believes the facility could even help the YMCA by putting more
focus on fitness in the area.
"And some may come here because we have a slightly different
configuration and focus," he said.
"There's a lot of room in this community for organizations that are
trying to put a family focus together," he said. "The more the merrier."