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Endless possibilities await community rec centers in 2023. But with the arrival of a new year comes the opportunity to plan for what the next 12 months will bring.

For Lucas Hughes, the CEO of Newton YMCA, one big focus in January is capitalizing on the rush of patrons seeking out rec centers as part of their New Year’s resolutions. To keep up occupancy throughout the month, Hughes said the Y is holding a fitness challenge.

“One of the main things we love doing is throwing together some sort of challenge to get everyone back into the gym,” said Hughes. “It’s about getting people engaged with the Y in a variety of ways. To end the year, we are doing a 12 days of fitness challenge which concentrates on a different workout every day motivating people to get into the spirit of the new year.”

To make the gym-going experience easier for beginners, Hughes said the Y is placing QR codes on each piece of equipment in the fitness center. Scanning the codes will take visitors to a YouTube video explaining how to safely operate each machine.

The initiative is part of wider approach Newton YMCA is taking in 2023 by using technology to attract more visitors into the facility.

“We are definitely looking forward to a normal year,” said Hughes. “It was such a drastic spike in how the climate just shifted since 2020. We are seeing a gradual coming back to normalcy, but you can feel the unknown with the economy the way it is and how child care is reacting. You must be willing to adapt and adopt.”

Planning Ahead

With winter creating hazardous road conditions, Hughes said the Y’s primary concern is the safety of staff and members. In fact, the Newton YMCA has a dedicated team on call ensuring the building can open safely to the public.

“Our communication protocols are pretty set in stone,” said Hughes. “We keep a close eye on the roads in the morning. We have an incredible team that salts the sidewalks and walkways. It’s a common thing here in Iowa. We are constantly keeping an eye of whether.”

Hughes said they also strive to maintain cleaning practices throughout the Y due to sickness running rampant during the winter season.

Elsewhere at the Katz JCC, Amanda Halliwell, the fitness and wellness director, said their text alert system notifies members of inclement weather. They are also notified of any closings, email alerts and website updates. The onsite building maintenance team also handles any weather event.

Nina Staiman, the adult and inclusion director at the Katz JCC, said her department also has an inclement weather policy. They began sharing the strategy with program participants in November.

Trends to Watch and Future Events

At the Katz JCC, Halliwell said she was looking forward to the return of the JCC Maccabi Games in 2023 and for the Mid-Atlantic Mini & Junior Maccabi Games. She is also eager for the JCC’s on-site outdoor pool to open Memorial Day weekend.

We are currently renovating our gymnasium and track space,” said Halliwell. “We are excited to open early February with fresh new spaces alongside our state-of-the-art swimming facility and fitness center. We have also added a large variety of new group exercise programs for 2023 to include yoga, dance, ballet and more.”

Staiman said highlights for 2023 will include the JCC’s Festival of Arts, Books and Culture, their music series and Jewish holiday celebrations for Purim and Passover.

At the Newton YMCA, Hughes said they are looking at purchasing new equipment for the Y’s cardio center.

“We want to improve the experience but keep it simple enough for people to understand the equipment,” said Hughes. “We are also looking at improving our outdoor fitness options. There are a lot of big things happening right now at the YMCA.”

Of trends to keep an eye on for 2023, Hughes advised to keep an eye on pickleball and wearable technology.

“The biggest trend I’m seeing right now is pickleball,” said Hughes. “That sport is just not going away any time soon. If you want to hop on this, you still have plenty of time to do so. If everyone can play it, what makes you think it’s going to go away? We are partnering with the city to make sure we utilize their courts as best as we can. Leveraging your partnerships is of the upmost importance right now.”


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John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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