Community Collaboration Officially Launches Fitness, Aquatic  and Community Center for Elkhart

Community Collaboration Officially Launches Fitness, Aquatic and Community Center for Elkhart

ELKHART - Five entities came together today to confirm their commitment to the collaboration in support of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and Beacon Health System’s effort to build a state-of-the-art medical fitness, aquatics and community complex at the former Elkhart EYCC/YMCA location.

According to Tom Housand, project visionary and prior EYCC/YMCA board chair, the estimated $55 million facility will be a community, medical fitness and aquatics facility that will be home to Beacon Health and Fitness, the Elkhart Community Schools swimming and aquatic programs, Elkhart United Aquatics, and various local and regional swim competitions.

Plans call for an early 2019 opening and officials say they plan to attract and host future amateur championships in swimming, as well as regional and state high school competitions.

“The complex will be a ‘game changer’ in terms of offering area athletes a training and competition-level swimming and diving facility. It will be one of four in the country with the capabilities to facilitate the combination of aquatics, medical fitness and community engagement,” said Pete McCown, President of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County.

“I am excited for our community and for all the families in our area,” said Rob Haworth, Superintendent of Elkhart Community Schools. “There is not a community aquatics facility in our region that exists at this level of offering training, competition, learning programs and leisure facilities for our local athletes and families.”

Haworth adds, “Over the past several years, we have been making investments in our 40-year-old pools.  The facilities simply are not going to last and they do not come equipped with the type of resources this complex provides for students,” he said. “Having an aquatics and fitness venue like this which we can collectively utilize, share and attract families to our community is going to be amazing.”

Phil Newbold, CEO of Beacon Health System shares, “Beacon Health and Fitness will offer the same standard for medical fitness that we provide in South Bend and Mishawaka. We will offer health-related fitness programs including sports medicine, orthopedics, and physical therapy, along with a full medical fitness center, fitness pool, gymnasium, suspended running track and racquetball courts.”

The complex will be approximately 170,000 square-foot building with a 66-meter by 25-meter competition swimming pool. There will be an attached diving well with 5-meter and 3-meter platforms and multiple 1-meter boards. The natatorium will seat 1,200 spectators.

There will also be a 25-yard fitness pool, a therapeutic pool, wet classroom, dry training space, member, public and student locker rooms, an additional gymnasium, a large community atrium, outdoor patio with access to walking trails, and multi-purpose rooms for meetings and special occasions.

In addition to regional and high school competitions, young children and families will be able to use the facility for open and recreational swimming and sports such as basketball, pickleball, volleyball and other community programmed classes. Programs will range from an array of swimming and youth sports programs and adult programs.

Special Olympics events can also be held at the community pool, McCown added, along with multiple spaces for other not-for-profit and community programs.

Phil Newbold, CEO of Beacon Health System shared that Beacon will operate the facility, “Whether you are a competitive athlete, a senior citizen, or a family seeking a diverse set of programs for everyone – this facility will truly improve the quality of life in our county and in our region.”

“The project has a strong financial commitment from the local community and the Regional Cities Initiative,” states Bob Deputy, member of the fundraising team. “We expect to have the total $65 million raised by the Spring 2017 groundbreaking. Currently, we have just under five million dollars left to raise. This partnership will enhance the economic impact in the county with hotel stays and restaurant visits. Additional downtown development is already underway in the River District where the Center is located.”  

Deputy also stated, “It is very important to note that the $65 million includes a $10 million endowment supported by local philanthropy and The Community Foundation of Elkhart County which will sustain the facility by annually providing $500,000 to the operational budget for maintenance and repairs, year after year.”

Organizers confirm that the total funding for the “Elkhart Heath, Fitness, Aquatics and Community Center” (official name to be determined) is slated to be $65 million and will primarily be provided by the Elkhart philanthropic community, the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, Beacon Health System, Regional Cities Initiative, Elkhart Community Schools and the City of Elkhart. Regional Cities funds of nine million dollars have been awarded. Operational funding will be achieved via memberships, rental agreements, and other community and outside groups that will utilize these facilities.

Pete McCown thanked all the entities for coming together to bring this project to reality as “the premier health, medical fitness, aquatics and community complex in the region.”  

“And,” he added, “we know that once someone visits, they will be back.”

An important addition to the partnership is the recent announcement of the City of Elkhart pursuing the contribution of two million dollars toward the south parking lot which will provide nearly half of the required parking for the facility.

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Letter to The Editor: Elkhart Truth February 15, 2017

Letter to The Editor: Elkhart Truth February 15, 2017

In 1974, the YMCA of Elkhart County opened a new facility. The new building was supported by a thriving community and corporations such as CTS Corporation and Miles Laboratories.

Throughout the years, the YMCA fundraising model was based on asking the community to fund its programs through the Community First Campaign. With many of the executives leaving Elkhart, the YMCA struggled to maintain the operations of this large facility. There was never the creation of a sustainability plan designed to cover operational replacements and repairs.

The YMCA financially limped along for many years and had for some time managed to serve a large portion of the Elkhart Community. To maintain the YMCA relationship the organization was responsible for paying YMCA National $4,000 a month for the brand licensing.

Many of us remember the good times with our children had growing up at the “Y” -- through basketball, soccer, gymnastics, and swimming. The recession of 2008 hit our county hard and membership dramatically declined. In 2012, the YMCA Board of Directors came very close to closing the facility. Instead, the board decided to raise more money, give it another shot, and keep it open while cutting expenses in order to keep the facility open.

Consequently, we decided that collaboration was the most efficient way to operate. Many of the Lifeline clientele were children that used the YMCA/EYCC. The missions of the two organizations aligned. The Lifeline board and the YMCA board mutually agreed that Darrell Peterson would serve as Executive Director for the YMCA, serving both organizations. The collaboration resulted in significant cost savings by blending the resources of two similar organizations. 

The YMCA national governing organization agreed that sharing the Executive Director role would benefit both non-for-profits. The Lifeline building was destroyed by a fire. That is when Lifeline and the YMCA began developing plans for a new building or a remodel of the existing building. At the same time, additional collaborations were explored to further alleviate costs so we could survive.

In 2014, YMCA National voted to pull the YMCA charter from Elkhart which had been in existence for 135 years. After the charter was revoked, the Elkhart Youth and Community Center (EYCC) was organized. Many of the programs and activities continued to operate, just not under the YMCA name.

The building continued to decline, the equipment failed and the membership dwindled. Peterson and his team continued to cut costs. However, the YMCA model of going to the community to ask for donations to supplement programming was proving to not be a feasible working model. The Community First Campaign was dropped and separate fundraising initiatives were put into practice. 

Three successful fundraisers, a community Ask Breakfast, and two Festival of Trees events (one with Premier Arts) were held. All of the profits from these events went back into the failing building. However, memberships continued to decline. There was never enough money to buy new equipment, remodel the old inefficient building, or launch new initiatives. The model of asking for money year after year, without a funded endowment and sustainability plan did not work.

The YMCA board never gave up on their plans to find a way to renovate the building or build a new center. During the strategic planning process, in February 2014, the YMCA experienced a power surge that resulted in a massive mechanical failure of over $50,000. This expense was in addition to already outstanding liabilities.

Rather than investing more money into a failing structure that was losing members, the board voted to close. This was a painful decision for everyone involved. The failing building, dwindling membership, and unsustainable financial structure were topped with the power incident.

Darrell Peterson, Executive Director of YMCA/EYCC and Lifeline, worked tirelessly and did everything possible to keep both organizations operating. He cut expenses and we were operating in the black even when the mechanical failures multiplied. The failure of the YMCA/EYCC was not related to his efforts. It failed due to a broken, perpetual and unsustainable financial model.

The Elkhart Community certainly reacted to the closing of the EYCC/YMCA. The announcement of a collaboration between the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, local philanthropists, Beacon Health System, Elkhart Community Schools, and the City of Elkhart is a welcome endeavor! A endowment and sustainability plan is in place and the operation will thrive.

We thank Darrell Peterson, all prior staff, volunteers, donors, vendors and board members for their decades of service.

This is an exciting time for Downtown Elkhart and the entire Elkhart community. This project will help rejuvenate the River District and our community as a whole. We are thrilled that this new facility will serve our community for generations to come!

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Representing the Past EYCC Board of Directors:
Dianne Benko, Past EYCC Board Member
Tom Housand, Past EYCC Board President
David Weaver, EYCC Strategic Planning Committee Chair
Julia Willis, Past EYCC Treasurer

January Progress Report

January Progress Report

Quarterly, we will be providing project updates on our blog for community members, donors, and partners to learn about how the project is progressing. These updates will be a result of meeting outcomes surrounding building planning, fundraising, communications and programming initiatives for the new facility.  Project details and economic impact details can always be found here: and click here to make inquiries about the project.


  • The first commercial building is down.  The east side and back of EYCC building is down.
  • Still working on completing bid estimates and they are underbudget.  They are going to bid soon and project knowing the bid outcomes the second week of March.  The bid estimates did not touch any contingencies.  Project is tracking well until we get the market to respond. These structural bids will be the largest number.
  • Decided to set a decision threshold for anything over $100,000 to be presented to core team. 
  • Timeline: 
    • Demolitions will occur through March.
    • Bidding will be a three-week duration.
    • Mobilization will start by end of March for foundations – there is a lot of earth to be moved.
    • Late summer we project to have construction out of the ground.
  • In March there is hopes of completing the appropriation to the City Council for approval of a grant for $2MM.
  • Umbaugh is completing the City bond analysis for the River District project to determine best funding to complete all projects with no tax impact to the community.  Best options will be presented to City Council. 
  • Formal press ceonference will be in February. 

December Progress Report

December Progress Report

Quarterly, we will be providing project updates on our blog for community members, donors, and partners to learn about how the project is progressing. These updates will be a result of meeting outcomes surrounding building planning, fundraising, communications and programming initiatives for the new facility.  Project details and economic impact details can always be found here: and click here to make inquiries about the project.  


  • Demolition of smaller buildings surrounding the prior EYCC facility began right after Christmas.  It is anticipated that all construction site buildings will be demolished by end of March.
  • The City of Elkhart is working on approvals to assist with funding for the South parking lot for the facility.  A decision should be made within the first quarter of 2017.
  • Elkhart Community Schools are finalizing their lease agreement with the newly established LLC comprising of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and Beacon Health System.  School board approval for the lease is projected for early 2017.
  • Early bid estimated were completed and were approximately $300,000 under budget.  Bids will be released for the structural aspects early 2017 which comprises of one-third of the overall construction budget.
  • It is projected that the official groundbreaking will occur very soon after the demolition is complete in March.
  • A formal press conference will occur soon after the school board approval of the lease - early 2017.  All partners will be present at the press conference which will be held at The Lerner Theater.