Need for health and wellness center growing, Urbana park official says | Parks-recreation

URBANA — Since the Urbana Park District revealed its plans earlier this year to build a new health and wellness center, the need for the facility has increased, Park District Executive Director Tim Bartlett said.

“We urgently need an in-house programming space,” he said.

Bartlett said the Urbana Parks Foundation has already raised $1.7 million in donations to help cover the $11.48 million cost of this project and still needs to raise at least $300,000 more.

“We’re close,” he said, “and we still need a little more push to get to the finish line.”

Plans call for a 45,000-square-foot, two-story center in Prairie Park on the east side of Urbana.

The center will feature dual gyms, an elevated walking path, locker rooms, fitness rooms, and an indoor play area.

In addition to the money raised through donations, the park district plans to pay for this project with $3 million in bonds, a $1 million fund balance, and $5.2 million in grants.

A later phase, estimated to cost around $1 million and not included in the building estimate, will include the exterior of this development – to include a destination playground, splash park, outdoor basketball court, pavilion, landscaping, gardens and walkways.

Bartlett said a private donor is covering the cost of the original sculpture of the “wellness wheel” that will be placed in the new center, and the area hopes to raise some extra money through a winter activity where kids and adults can make small profits for ornament-sized wellness wheels to take to the home.

The Urbana Park District is looking to this new center to provide a place for indoor exercise that can help fight chronic disease and reduce stress.

Bartlett said Urbana also needs more indoor community program space — in part due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need for program participants to space at safe distances from one another.

He said that with gun violence on the rise in Champaign-Urbana, it is also important to have space and programs to bring people together for peaceful activities.

The park district is keen to provide midnight basketball opportunities with separate rooms for orientation, working with the city, the Urbana Free Library, the Urbana School District and local churches to develop more programs and services to meet people “wherever they are,” Bartlett said.

He said the money raised for this project to date is the largest ever raised by Urbana Parks for any garden project.

Bartlett said this tells him the community is excited to see this center develop.

“We were overwhelmed by Urbana’s generosity,” he said.

Bartlett said he hopes the park district will begin construction on the new center next spring, with completion expected in the fall of 2023.

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