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Heimerman: Can local market support additional fitness centers?

Ever since I shattered my personal marathon record five weeks ago, my right kneecap has felt worse and worse. My daily gauge is how tightly I have to grip the handrail as I go up or down the steps in the DeKalb County Courthouse.

I know there’s an elevator. My pride won’t let me take it.

In turn, as I’ve abstained from running and generally avoided any cardio that puts stress on the knee, my energy level has plummeted. Welcome to my winter of discontent.

Hopefully my misery reflects the importance I place on health and wellness.

That said, what’s the threshold, in terms of services? More specifically, what can the DeKalb County market support?

I ask because Northwestern Medicine is building a new $46 million wellness center just west of the Kishwaukee Family YMCA, a well-struck golf ball away from the Y.

Meanwhile, we recently learned that a major component of the 40,000-square-foot community center being built along Airport Road south of Route 23 in Sycamore will be a new wellness program, the result of a partnership between the park district, Northwestern Medicine and Northern Illinois University’s Department of Kinesiology. The park district’s goal is to have 400 to 500 members, Executive Director Dan Gibble said.

The recreation campus, in its entirety, will cost about $7.2 million.

I’m sure both of the ongoing projects will lead to innovative wellness services the Y might not already provide. That said, the Y is huge. It dwarfs the Y in Sterling, where I last worked.

So I’m very curious about the market sustainability.

We as a nation are facing an epidemic of obesity unlike any we’ve ever encountered. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of American adults and about one-fifth of our children are obese – that latter number having tripled since the 1970s. I’d be hard-pressed to call money used for wellness ill-spent.

I’m eager to learn more about what, exactly, these new centers will provide. Some of it will undoubtedly be redundant to services at the Y, as well as the many health and wellness businesses scattered across the county.

Fact is, there’s a lot of us here, and even the fittest among us can use, if not need, services.

But how will these new centers expand the scope? Although the Y and other institutions are private businesses, many of them pride themselves on paying dividends to the community. I don’t think any of us would like to see that sort of enrichment hamstrung.

It will be at least a few months until either of these two new centers open, so I’m hoping the leaders of these projects are as eager to tell us how they’ll augment the community’s wellness as I am to learn.

• Christopher Heimerman is news editor of the Daily Chronicle. Call him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, email him at, or follow him on Twitter

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