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There's Everything From A to Z at the Downtown Y : Organization Opens Three-Story Building to 'Serve All Types'

October 07, 1986|GARY LIBMAN

A former world-class volleyball player screamed with delight as he leaped above the net and slammed the ball to the floor.

A retiree, 70, swam for an hour to warm himself up for a run in a park, and a 12-year-old boy learned a jump-rope trick.

A legal secretary worked on weight machines while three well-tailored young men in suits studied a floor plan to learn the location of the weight room.

A 17-Year Absence

Those were among the scenes last week as the $13-million Stuart M. Ketchum-Downtown YMCA opened, reestablishing the Y downtown after an absence of 17 years. The three-story, 110,000-square-foot building on the roof of the Atlantic Richfield Plaza Garage at 401 Hope St. succeeds the YMCA at 715 S. Hope St., which closed in 1969. The Y sold the dilapidated building, hoping to erect a new $15-million edifice--a hope that proved unrealistic.

"One of the purposes of relocating in Los Angeles is to serve all types of people. . . . (We're going to serve) old and young, senior citizens, working people and college students," said John D. Havlick, executive director of the newDowntown Y.

Health Clubs Object

The content of the membership is important because a group of California health clubs has objected to the Y's charitable, tax-exempt status, contending that it no longer serves the poor. The health clubs have threatened to challenge the status in court, following similar suits by health clubs elsewhere in the country.

The new green structure, surrounded by the Westin Bonaventure Hotel to the west and the Wells Fargo Bank building to the south, contains an exercise room with weight machines, a gymnasium, a running track, a 25-yard pool for lap swimming, and six racquetball and handball courts.

Members can use the equipment or the chapel or health food snack bar, or take classes that include aerobics or stress management, from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, or from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

These privileges will cost adults a one-time joining fee of $200 and $32.50 per month or $390 per year, while students 18-21 are charged $50 to join and $25 monthly.

Children pay no joining fee and $5 per month, while retired people over 60 who live downtown are assessed no joining fee and $20 per month. Officials emphasize that no one will be turned away for lack of ability to pay.

(The 5,400-member Los Angeles Athletic Club, also downtown, charges a $650 initiation fee for single members or families plus $84 monthly. Those under 31 are offered a junior rate of $325 and monthly dues of $42. Programs for children are offered during non-peak hours and on weekends.)

There are now 26 YMCA's in metropolitan Los Angeles, including one near USC and another near MacArthur Park, and a total of 55 in Los Angeles County.

Many members of the new YMCA will be able to walk to the facility from nearby buildings, but those who drive will confront additional expense. A YMCA brochure advertises "Parking--well lit and patrolled," but the Y has no parking of its own.

The Atlantic Richfield Plaza Garage below the Y charges $1.50 per 20 minutes and a $15 maximum, which drops to $7.50 between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. Other neighborhood garages charge similar rates.

Havlick said the organization hopes to work out price reductions with nearby garages and will transport children and seniors to the facility when necessary.

Larry Rosen, executive vice president of operations, said studies show that 120,000 people work within one-half mile of the facility and "we hope they'll walk (here)" to improve fitness.

The Y chose to keep membership rates low rather than subsidize parking, Havlick added. He said the organization would like to help those too far away to walk by uniting them in car pools.

'A Friendlier Place'

"That's what the Y can do," he said, "Introduce people to one and other to make their lives better. To make the city a friendlier place."

Havlick said that as of last week 2,400 people had bought memberships, about half-way toward the organization's first-year goal of 5,000.

Of the hundreds of people who inspected the Downtown Y with its shiny maple floors, long row of exercise bicycles or carpeted weight room last week, most wore suits and dresses. The majority of those interviewed said they worked in offices nearby.

Havlick said the early 60-40 male-to-female membership ratio was "encouraging because we're not here to serve any one segment of the population." He said a further statistical breakdown of initial members would be dominated by employes of nearby buildings and would not reflect expectations for eventual membership.

'Highly Motivated People'

The initial members, he said, are "highly motivated people already into fitness. We'll do our own analysis, and if we find we're without a segment of the population we're going to go after them."

Chetera Watson, associate executive director for community programs, will pursue those groups.

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