Study finds significant YMCA county interest

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Person County has significant interest in a YMCA, but membership funds would not be high enough to support an indoor pool, according to researchers from Foursquare Research, Inc.

Li Li, Managing Partner at Foursquare Research, Inc. presented the feasibility study at the Board of County Commissioners retreat Monday morning.

Li explained that the study was conducted through 600 phone interviews to get a representative sampling of the county. Also included in the study were portions of Orange and Durham counties.

Li said the study found that there were only about 21,000 households in the study area, about half of what would normally be viable for a YMCA.

The study found that 38 percent of the study area considers themselves active – about 10 percent lower than the national average, Li said. Li also said 17 percent of the survey area said they are affiliated with a fitness facility.

“Its very clear from this information that the lack of providers is most likely a key factor contributing to people who are not active,” Li said.

Study participants were asked to rank their interest in a YMCA facility on a scale of 1 to 4 with those responding 4 being counted as potential members.

The study found that 5.9 percent of households expressed a great deal of interest, or a 4, in a YMCA facility. Adjusted for the number of households in the study area, 1,310 households would be expected to have a great deal of interest in a YMCA facility.

Li said the 5.9 percent with a great deal of interest is higher than the average of 4.5 percent, but the smaller population base means that the percentage would need to be even higher to get a viable number for a YMCA. Li said the number of households would need to be closer to 2,000 for a full-service YMCA.

“When we say full service, we’re talking a Y with a pool,” she said. “The reason is: a pool is the most expensive square footage to build and run. It can easily cost a half million (dollars) just to run a basic pool, so you need more revenue to support it.”

Prospective members were given three options for a facility in Person County: on NC 57 near Thomas Road, near Rock Athletic Complex on Wesleyan Road, or in Timberlake. Of the three options, 89 percent of prospective members chose the location on Wesleyan Road as their first or second choice. Li said 1,166 new units would be expected at that location, generating $569,985 in new revenue, but that would not be able to support an indoor pool at the facility.

“There is interest,” Li said. “It is strong and significant. It’s not something you can walk away from, but the number needed to support a full-service facility with a swimming pool is not quite there at this point.”

Li explained that significant interest is generated by the implementation of a branch-only 15 percent lower membership rate, saying that without the implementation the number of prospective members would too low.

In conclusion, Li said that significant interest in a YMCA facility exists, but the small population base limits the number of membership units and makes an indoor pool at the facility infeasible.

Li recommended that a 14,063-square-foot YMCA facility be built featuring a wellness center for working out, indoor walking and running track, group exercise studios, multipurpose classrooms, babysitting area, a youth and teen center and a members’ lounge. When operational expenses were secured, Li said a second phase featuring an indoor pool and indoor gymnasium could be built.

Danville Family YMCA CEO Sarah Folmar said the $15 million Danville facility was built and operates completely without public funds.

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