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More Ys Going to Smaller Express Format

Kansas City, Mo — More YMCAs nationwide are building express facilities to reach new communities, save building costs and hone in on the fast-paced adult market, says Mark Hulet, vice president of membership services for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, which has one Y Express location in Lee's Summit, MO, and is planning to build two more in the Kansas City area.

The new model is smaller than a traditional Y, does not typically have aquatics and generally offers fewer services than a big-box Y. Current Y Express locations include Maineville, OH; Lithia, FL; Whitsett, NC; and Lake Charles, LA. Most Y Expresses offer cardiovascular equipment and weights, along with group exercise and limited child care. Many locations also house administrative offices for off-site services such as swimming lessons that are held at a different location.

The smaller and less-expensive model allows the Y to reach new and more diversified markets, including time-crunched adults, Hulet says. Because Y Express buildings typically have 8,000 to 12,000 square feet, building costs are much lower than a traditional 40,000-square-foot Y.

“This is a trend we'll see more of as it becomes more difficult to raise money,” he says. “There are a lot of charities and great causes out there. We have to find ways to get into the market.”

Hulet says the new, smaller facilities can also be less risky, especially if their location is leased for five to 10 years.

“Then, if the market doesn't come, you can pack your bags and find a more viable location,” he says.

So far, Hulet's Y Express is doing well with 1,000 members. He expects to double that number in the future.

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