When the French Creek Family YMCA in Avon, Ohio, set its focus on increasing family programming and noticed an area of the facility being underused, the idea to reignite family fun sparked a number of new programs, along with the creation of plugged-in and unplugged rooms.
“We really didn’t have much for the whole family to enjoy together,” said Ben Altemus, the membership director at the French Creek Y. “We’re a YMCA — you can get a good workout, swim or play basketball — but when it came to engaging the whole family in activities, we thought we had an opportunity to increase that, which is how it all started.”
The unplugged room consists of traditional gaming like foosball, air hockey, pop-a-shot and board games. “Families can go in there and play a game of Candy Land with their kids or air hockey — whatever it may be — it’s really just family fun as we knew it growing up,” described Altemus.
Naturally, the plugged-in room consists of electronics, gaming that would appeal to kids and teens, and even the older demographic as well. Within the plugged-in room, there are three HTC Vive Pro virtual reality systems and two Nintendo Switches.
Altemus has found the VR systems to not only be a great way to involve young and senior members, but also deliver an educational component. “You can go and take a tour of Rome, or you can take a tour of an art museum, and literally walk around in the space and look at these places,” he said. “People who can’t travel anymore or were never going to get over there can now go virtually — about as close as they can get without being there.”
Along with the VR systems, the Nintendo Switches were chosen because up to eight people can play per system. “It’s really fun for Mario Cart and games like that where the whole family can play at once,” Altemus elaborated. “Those are a lot of fun, and we can have people trading off between that and the VR systems.”
In addition to the plugged-in and unplugged rooms, the Y also revamped its child watch program, a feature of the family membership that allows members to bring children ages zero to 12 while they are getting in a workout or taking a class. Previously, the program had a lot of games and activities, but hadn’t changed in a few years.
Continuing with the theme of “Reignite,” the staff wanted to add new and exciting activities for kids to do. This included a soft play area, outfitted by The Play Company, consisting of stackable mats, slides and climbing areas all made of foam. “It’s a nice area for the kids to play — they know it’s safe and fun, and they can climb around and have a great time,” said Altemus.
While a lot of these new additions can be found in any community, Altemus emphasized as long as an individual has a family membership, all of the programs are free to the whole family. The aim is to add more value to the family membership offering at their Y.
“These are things we want to have for families to be able to come here, and not just use us as a gym, but as a community resource — if you need something to do with your family, the Y is here,” said Altemus. “And that’s really what we’re trying to emphasize with these new improvements.”