YMCA Proposes Partnership With Park District, Not New Community Center

While the park district gauges community interest in a new community center, the North Suburban YMCA floats idea of partnership.

Last week, the Northbrook Park District on park district property.

But Executive Director and CEO Howard Schultz believes he has a better idea. 

“We have offered the park district an opportunity to partner with the Y to help answer the needs that they’ve perceived,” he told Patch. “We’ve offered this before, we offer this now.” 


Schultz spoke to Patch after the park district released the results of a survey conducted springing February to gauge interest in building a community center on the adjacent to , which the district purchased in September for $2.1 million. 

According to park district executive director Rick Hanetho, a community center was one of the top requests made by community members in a more extensive survey completed in 2009. Once the park district purchased the six-acre property that , it seemed appropriate to poll residents to see whether a community center made sense on that site. 

Schultz, however, said he has already proposed a partnership with the park district that would meet those needs. In 2009, he proposed that the park district construct at least 15,000 square feet of additional space for the community adjacent to the North Suburban YMCA, using park district reserves. Under his proposal, the Y would fund the expense of operating the addition while splitting net profits between the park district and the Y. Schultz said he approached the park district a second time last month.

“We think it’s a good use of community resources to not duplicate existing facilities,” Schultz said. “We’ve made it clear that we’d be interested in partnering with them ever since they did their first survey.” 

Nationwide, Schultz said that roughly 40 percent of YMCAs had partnerships with their local park district. He also said that he was concerned about the Y and other sporting facilities in Northbrook, including , losing business to the park district. When the Glenview Park District built a new community center, Y membership dropped from 3,000 to roughly half that, he noted, although membership today is back up to 2,300.

“We’re concerned about financial impact, but we’re more concerned about the impact it has on the community,” Schultz said. “Five Seasons, they’re a taxpaying entity. If they go out of business, what does that do to the community?” 

Park District Executive Director Rick Hanetho confirmed that the district had been approached by the Y in the past. However, he said the Y was only one of many potential partners the park district might work with—if any. 

“It’s premature for me to comment on any potential partnership,” Hanetho said. “There’s no commitment or no guarantee that we’re going to even pursue a rec center.”

Hanetho stressed that a community center was something the park district had discussed for years—and that survey data showed residents want one. In its 2009 survey, the park district asked residents to rank the most important action the district could take. Creating new walking and biking trails and connecting existing ones was ranked highest by the greatest number of respondents, while the second greatest number of respondents supported developing indoor programming spaces.  

Hanetho said he had reviewed the 2009 survey this week, highlighting all of the comments that related to building a community center or a rec center with park district funds. Again and again, respondents asked for an indoor fitness space.

“I’m not making this up,” he said. “There’s been no agenda here other than meeting the community’s unmet needs.” 

The park district’s survey was just the first step in an extended process of gathering community input, according to Hanetho. Over the next several weeks, the park district will hold several public forums as well as meetings with community stakeholders, including the Y.

Depending on how the community responds, the park district board could ultimately decide to hold a referendum on the question of building a community center, which would likely be funded by increased property taxes and user fees. 

“It’s really premature for us to estimate a cost, because at this point, we don’t know what, if anything, we’re going to do,” Hanetho said. 

Public forums will be held at the Leisure Center from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 7 and 8 and from 2 to 4 p.m. March 13. Residents are asked to reserve a spot in the forum in advance online or by calling the park district at 847-897-6105. 

Jack Billig March 02, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Glad to see proposed cooperation between NPD and existing facilities.
Dennis Byrne March 02, 2012 at 05:56 PM
The partnership approach only makes sense. Or to put it another way: Only the partnership approach makes sense.
Ed60062 March 02, 2012 at 05:56 PM
That makes a lot of sense if the Y is actually deficient in some facilities. Perhaps neither alternative is needed. I'd like to see a comparison of exactly what is wanted vs. what already exists in the area.
Debra De Palma March 03, 2012 at 06:05 PM
For social, economic and other reasons, our community agencies need to pursue partnerships whenever possible. On the heels of two recent Park District partnerships (one with School District 28 at Greenbriar School, and one with Glencoe to share aquatics resources), the Park District is going in the right direction. It's not time to build a new Park District facility. It's time to look at all the great facilities and potential partners that already exist, and figure out how to do the most good by meeting unmet needs. We should spend as little as necessary, and keep user fees as low as possible so that the greatest number of people in the community can access fitness, sports, and cultural activities -- regardless of age, ability or income. We don't need another fitness facility in Northbrook. We need to use and improve what we already have!
concerned northbrook resident March 04, 2012 at 05:36 PM
The YMCA proposal is that the Park District invest 4.5 million dollars of tax payer money for a 15,000 sq foot addition to the YMCA, that the Y would run and the Y may give a discount to Northbrook Park District residents. Who really thinks this is a good use of tax payer money?
Howard Schultz March 05, 2012 at 12:31 AM
As CEO of the Y, I would like to clarify the Y’s position and correct an inaccuracy in a previous posting. For full clarification, I must reply in two successive comments because of limits on size here: First of all, let me state the Y does not believe our proposal to partner is an “all or nothing” proposition for the Park District, and we have not unveiled it in order to make a “pitch” for community dollars to be spent on the Y. Nor are we in any way are trying to be adversarial with the Park District, with whom we have great respect. We do believe however, that there is already ample capacity existing in the private and non-profit sectors for people who are looking for exercise and fitness options without needing to build tax supported facilities of this kind. The Y has additional capacity to service more members (and even more with our new renovations currently underway) and we know Five Seasons does as well, and other facilities in town presumably have additional capacity as well. As for the the Y’s proposal to the Park District to invest $3M-$4M (not $4.5M as stated above) from existing capital reserves (as opposed to raising new taxes) to add 15,000 SF for additional health, fitness & group exercise space to our already existing 75,000 SF facility, this was made in response to the Park District’s perception of a need for more indoor space of this type based upon their interpretation of the results of their 2009 and 2012 survey results.
Howard Schultz March 05, 2012 at 12:36 AM
YMCA Clarification continued: It is our contention that IF the Park District believes it is important to develop additional space on behalf of the community, THEN we believe our proposal is a more cost effective means of doing so. It was only when the Park District announced "strong support for a community center based upon survey results", that we felt it was important that the community be educated about other options available before events start moving too quickly to be changed, particularly with community hearings coming up so quickly within the next two weeks. Our proposal includes three very important components: 1. The Y would assume all responsibility for operating expenses on the additional space including program, overhead and staffing, saving the Park District from any extra recurring costs to their operating budget, and additionally would create a formula to provide the Park District with a net revenue stream after expenses 2.Northbrook residents would indeed receive a discount under this scenario 3.An investment in 15,000 SF of additional space will actually produce a partnership for 90,000 SF for all who participate because the ENTIRE Y is available for the community to participate in, and we would welcome an active partnership with the Park District on many levels The Y is dedicated to building a stronger community and our goal is to work towards that Rotary code of the greater good.We look forward to working together with all who wish to join us.
Pam Palmersheim March 08, 2012 at 05:43 PM
The Y is dedicated to building a strong, accepting community - who wouldn't want to leverage such a partnership? I believe it is selfish to not rally as a community and build on what already exists - isn't that what community is all about?


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