by Greg Fladager

The Casper Family YMCA is changing direction under a new director, and won City Council approval last week to shift a $500,000 One Cent Sales Tax grant toward improving exercise facilities and programs, rather than building a new entryway for the facility.

“We’d like to scale down the building project, to offer more services,” said Brent Kleinjan, the new CEO of the Casper Family YMCA, at a work session of the City Council.

The half-million dollars was allocated to the YMCA four years ago (One Cent Thirteen) for a major remodel of the entrance, including making it ADA handicapped accessible. For various reasons the project was delayed, and Kleinjan said the existing entryway could be made ADA compliant for about $40,000, which would free up the rest of the funds.

Kleinjan explained the proposal was directed toward making the YMCA into a self-sustaining operation, and eliminating the need for further city funding. By offering state of the art exercise equipment, they look to attract more paying adult members, along with providing a package of new programs and facilities targeted to children, teens, families, Casper College students, and the elderly. The goal is to increase membership from 2,300 to 3,500 by this time next year.

He presented a plan to the Council that included $340,000 in equipment upgrades and activity room improvements, along with about $150,000 in maintenance and building repairs.

“The equipment we have is way behind the curve,” Kleinjan said.

The plan calls for a total overhaul of the current weight room, cardio room and Kids Gym into a state of the art fitness center, including 24 cardio machines with 17 inch flat screens, 12 pieces of resistance equipment, and a fully outfitted free-weight room with TV monitors for watching the “big game.” It also includes basketball and volleyball court upgrades.

The Teen Room will be renamed the XR Zone, and incorporate biking and snow boarding video/exercise technology, a Light Space play floor and wall, the Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) game, a Makato Action Arena and other popular games from the world of “exergaming.” It would be the only place in Casper to offer such a wide range of programming.

One of the racquetball courts will be made into an indoor playground for children and toddlers, where kids one to eight-years-old can have their own space, in a supervised environment. Additional childcare services will also be provided, including evenings and possibly some weekends.

Some City Council members were concerned about public funding for programs that would compete with the private sector, but Kleinjan countered the YMCA is a human services organization.

“We’ve subsidized a very substantial number of people who otherwise could not afford it,” Kleinjan said, noting they give up to 95 percent discounts on the $40 monthly rate. They also offer child-care and other social services, such as shower facilities for homeless families, in the community.

The maintenance and building projects include replacing the boiler, putting in the ADA compliant entryway, parking lot repairs and improved lighting, and upgrading office equipment and wiring.

They hope to have the new equipment and other work done by the end of 2011.