By Mike Danahey
February 16, 2012 9:12PM
Dundee Township Park District marketing director Helen Shumate views blueprints Thursday as she and facility manager Hank Faulkner (left) and deputy director Jim Miller tour the fitness facility being built in West Dundee. | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 16, 2012 10:19PM
WEST DUNDEE — The Dundee Township Park District says its new Randall Oaks Recreation Center should be viewed as one more option for fitness seekers rather than as competition with all the other fitness and health facilities already in the area.
The park district center now under construction along Randall Road is on schedule to have a grand opening Aug. 25, with programming to begin in September.
And while the area seems to have more than its fair share of private fitness-related offerings, the nature of what will be offered at the new $12.6 million facility — and what is seen as its mission — will set it apart from the others, and even from the park district’s Rakow Center in Carpentersville, according to district staff.
“We don’t view what is available in the area as competition but as more opportunities in fitness and wellness,” DTPD Executive Director Tom Mammoser said.
“We fill a niche,” said DTPD Fitness Center Supervisor Ande Masoncup. “Our goal is not to have everything but provide a good foundation-building experience.”
A selling point for the fitness centers inside both park district buildings is that they are homes away from home and social gathering places, Masoncup said.
Including the new Randall Oaks Recreation Center and a private gym to be built in West Dundee, by next winter there could be at least 15 fitness facilities of various sizes and price points in or not far from Dundee Township.
By next January, West Dundee will be home to a new LA Fitness. Construction is supposed to get under way in April on a 35,000-square-foot building on the property northwest of Routes 31 and 72 that holds the vacant Toys R Us, near Spring Hill Mall, that closed in late 2009.
Already in West Dundee are Snap Fitness off Route 72 and just west of Randall Road, Curves near Spring Hill Mall, Body and Mind Pilates on Washington Street, and InnerPeace Pilates on Main Street. Along Route 72 in Sleepy Hollow and also near the mall is Fitness Advantage 24/7.
In addition to the Rakow Center on its east side, Carpentersville has Anytime Fitness near Woodman’s along Randall Road to the west.
About 20 percent of Algonquin is in Dundee Township, and that village is home to Snap Fitness and Five Point Fitness along Algonquin Road; the personal training-based Premier Fitness Solutions, Fitness 19, and Life Time Fitness, all along Randall Road; and Cardinal Fitness not far from the intersection of Routes 25 and 62.
Cardinal recently has been offering memberships for as little as $10 a month, while the more expansive Life Time is running some members $60 or more a month, which shows the range of pricing for such facilities.
The fitness center at the park district’s Rakow Center currently charges its in-district members $23 to $29 a month. Mammoser said the new rate once the new site has opened has yet to be determined. That rate will allow people to use the fitness rooms at both facilities. While fitness memberships help offset operating costs for the broader facilities, they “will be priced fairly relative to the amenities,” Mammoser said.
As for why there are so many fitness places in the area, Masoncup and DTPD Director of Marketing Communications Helen Shumate speculated that it might be the same reason there are Walmarts and Targets every few miles — namely market research indicating people will only drive so far for certain services.
Mammoser said the area’s demographics — along with busy Randall and Algonquin roads and Routes 25, 31, 62, 68 and 72 — all probably contribute to the number of local fitness facilities.
He said neither of the park district centers are membership-based facilities, meaning as taxpayer-owned places they serve purposes beyond those of for-profit gyms.
Just east of East Dundee along Route 72 is Prairie Stone Sports Wellness Center, a facility of the Hoffman Estates Hoffman Estates Park District.
Mammoser noted that Prairie Stone and The Centre in downtown Elgin both were built after the Rakow Center and reflect a trend since the late 1980s for park districts and parks departments to have such places in their holdings.
“They’re expected to have them,” Mammoser said.
And expanding amenities to the community has been part of DTPD comprehensive plan since 1997, he said.
Efforts to get a new west-side center built through tax-raising referendums failed in 1997 and in 2001. Still, a survey conducted for the district by the University of St. Francis in October 2008 showed 52 percent of residents who took part said a rec center west of the Fox River remained a high-priority item.
About 71 percent of township residents west of the Fox considered a recreation center on their side of town to be a priority. In addition, 46 percent of those residents said they go to a rec center other than the Dundee Township Park District fitness center, compared to just 25 percent of those on the east side. Of those who chose not to use the DTPD facility, 72 percent said location was their primary reason.
Since 1989, the population of Dundee Township has grown from about 39,000 to about 53,000 currently.
While there are more people to serve, memberships to the fitness center at the Rakow peaked at about 2,000 in the year or two after it opened. The last several years, membership numbers have remained at about 1,200 to 1,300 people, Masoncup said.
DTPD staff interviewed said they don’t foresee the older facility being left behind by residents when the new one opens, in part because of travel issues — and that the indoor pool, Dolphin Cove, Senior Center, racquetball and sauna/whirlpool area are offerings not available at the Randall Road site.
The Rakow Center was built in 1989, and its fitness room was expanded in 1992. The following year, the Dolphin Cove Family Aquatic Center opened on land adjacent to the Rakow, and in 2002 the district added the Senior Center wing to the facility.
The Carpentersville building originally was called the Dundee Township Recreation and Fitness Center, which was changed in 2011 to recognize the many years of service of brothers Craig and the late Gene Rakow to the park district. In addition to the 1,500-square-foot fitness room, the Rakow Center has a gym with track, indoor pool, multipurpose and exercise rooms.
The 53,000-square-foot Randall Oaks facility is being built by Elgin-based Lamp Inc. Along with its 5,000-square-foot fitness center, it will have a double gym with an elevated running/walking track above it, exercise and classrooms, and another 5,000 square feet set aside for the Dundee Township Library’s western branch.
As at the Rakow, use of the track will be free to the public. Unlike the Rakow, the locker rooms at the new center will be limited to use by fitness center members.
The site also will have an outdoor trail system from the building into Randall Oaks Park and its zoo. There also will be a roadway from Randall Road to Tri-Cities Little League fields close by with shared parking areas.
The park district is funding the construction with federal stimulus package Build America Bonds, which allow up to 35 percent of the interest to be abated over the life of the bond.