A north window in the Kroc Center used to look out onto Y Street, but now it offers a view into almost 7,000 square feet of designated fitness space.
The new area is part of an expansion at the Salvation Army’s community center at 30th and Y Streets that more than tripled the facility’s fitness space. The construction began last July and concluded in October. It will be shown off to the public in a grand opening on Jan. 6.
The facility functions as a community center, with a fitness center, swimming pool, classrooms, outdoor athletic fields and state-of-the-art concert hall, among its amenities.
In 2003, Joan Kroc, a philanthropist and widow of the founder of McDonald’s Corp., left $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army for the construction and operation of Kroc Centers in underserved communities. Each community had to provide a match.
In the case of Omaha, the local match came in direct and indirect funding. The City of Omaha provided the land and related improvements at a reduced cost, while the philanthropic community raised $15 million to build the $30 million center.
About a third of the cities were unable to raise the matching funds, however, and the money was redistributed to the existing centers.
In Omaha, it helped pay for the $8.5 million expansion, which allowed the center to raise the standards of its programs and facilities. The exercise space nearly doubled to offer an indoor track, equipment for cardio and weight lifting, an exercise studio and the only Escape Fitness Octagon in the Midwest.
The octagon is an adult playground that offers a whole-body workout with pull-up bars, punching bags, resistance equipment and other features. The variety falls in line with the rest of the gym, which provides for all ability levels and personal goals, said health and fitness manager Sandy Andersen.
There are cardio machines for people in wheelchairs, 100-pound dumbbells for fitness buffs and introduction to exercise classes for children.
Members can track their progress by monitoring their heart rates and logging their workouts with technology on the new machines.
Andersen said the holiday season is an important time to remember fitness goals.
“People want to start their New Year’s resolutions, but it often dies by February or March,” Andersen said. “We want to be there to help them remember their motivation and keep going.”
The Kroc Center’s resources spread beyond the gym. The Kroc offers art, music and life skills classes, sports leagues and faith services.
“It’s more than just, ‘Let’s go work out,’ ” Auxiliary Capt. John Gantner said. “It’s, ‘We’ll be working out, Grandma will be in a pottery class and the kids will be going down the water slides.’ ”
There are activities at the community center for every age, interest and income level, Gantner said. He stressed that the center strives to be affordable. There are scholarships available for memberships, and 30 percent of the Kroc’s programs are free to the public.
That commitment to helping everybody reinforces a stronger sense of community as patrons get to know each other, he said.
“People are in the gym or in the classroom, and they have no idea that they have completely different socioeconomic backgrounds,” Gantner said. “You realize that people aren’t what you see in the news, they’re real people.”