Port Huron-YMCA deal bringing free fitness to downtown Port Huron's McMorran Plaza next 3 summers – The Times Herald


Residents looking to do yoga or exercise outside on the redeveloped McMorran Plaza in Port Huron’s downtown will be able to take free classes under a deal between the city and YMCA.
The city is allocating $130,375 to finance wellness classes over the next three summer.
Based on a 14-week season from Memorial Day to Labor Day, there would be four classes per day six days a week through the YMCA of the Blue Water Area.
City Manager James Freed said they’re using a share of the city’s federal COVID stimulus funds through “significant language added for community wellness initiatives” in the American Rescue Plan.
But the partnership between city parks and recreation and the YMCA, he said, put the content experts in charge of what classes will be offered.
“We’re excited,” Josh Chapman, president and CEO of the local YMCA, said earlier this week. “Obviously, you all know about some of the work that we’ve done with Sport Port. We had that, we have youth programming, we’ve had the evidence-based enhanced fitness class looking at diabetes prevention. We know that that is a challenge in our area.
“High-intensity classes, and really … how cool is it when we’re talking about workforce development and retention that somebody’s getting off the highway, coming into the heart of downtown and they see a sunrise yoga class? That is a really cool thing.”
Freed said it will put the city’s new $1.2 million plaza — a massive fundraised effort finally spurring renovations starting in late 2020 — to use when it is opened up to passers-by later this year. The final product includes a bier garden, layout for an ice loop, and space for splash pad-like water features.
Freed also said the YMCA deal particularly helps utilize the new plaza’s main stage, named for its sponsor McLaren Port Huron, “with the hopes of seeing community wellness programs there.”
Parks and Rec Director Nancy Winzer has talked about the potential for wellness classes by McMorran before, adding this week, “I’ve been in other cities where you see everyone outside, and they’re doing yoga on Mondays, and Josh jumped right in.
“We’re going to try to expand and go from seniors to kids, families to adults, different exercise programs.”
The YMCA’s proposal, OK’d by City Council Monday night, states the effort will ensure all Port Huron residents have access to programming at no cost, and that they’d have to complete a waiver and show valid identification to be eligible.
During a work session Monday afternoon, Chapman responded to a question about who the no-cost option was available to and said, “That is going to be an opportunity for Port Huron to set itself” but that they were prepared to ask for IDs.
However, officials said free access may not be limited to city residents.
On Wednesday, Winzer said they were discussing the subject Friday and that she wasn’t sure how cost, if any, to residents in partnering communities would work out.
Freed said he didn’t expect it to be an issue, adding he thought it could “be free for anyone who shows up.”
“It’s a massive plaza,” he said. “We have room for many.”
The city manager said the bigger benefit of offering wellness classes on the plaza will be getting people to stick around downtown before and after.
“Really, it’s not only creating a culture of wellness, but you’re making more of an economic driver of this new investment we have,” Freed said.
Referencing the pilot program, he said, “I want, in a year or so or a few years, to say, ‘If it works at the plaza, does it work at Lincoln Park? Does it work at Lakeside Park? Does it work at Knox Field?’ This is a great test to put up.”
Chapman said the Y will handle marketing and preregistration of the plaza programs with staff on-site during classes to take potential walk-ins.
“We know people are going to be driving by, walking by — and frankly, we want that — to come and engage with our staff,” he said. “But we would register and would, from a data-collection perspective, know who, what, why, where in the community they’re coming from.”
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.