Meridian is only weeks away from the opening of the new South Meridian Family YMCA. The Y’s campus will serve as a hub for a number of partners, including the Meridian Library District, West Ada School District, city of Meridian and St. Luke’s Health System. The 22.5-acre campus is known as The Hill.

The South Meridian Y and Hillsdale Park — a 10 acre park next to the facility — are both scheduled to open at May 25. The Y will open at 10:30 a.m. and host tours of the building throughout the day. There will also be a community celebration of Hillsdale Park from 5:30 to 8 p.m. that day.

Other pieces of The Hill are slated to open later in the year, including a small library focused on early development and a clinic next door to the YMCA run by St. Luke’s Health System.

The Hill’s 22 acres were donated by Meridian residents Marti Hill and Dixie Cook and the Brighton Corporation.

The South Meridian Family YMCA

The YMCA has raised the $18.5 million needed to open the 60,000-square-foot facility debt free, Treasure Valley YMCA President and CEO David Duro announced on March 13. The funding came from businesses, foundations and individuals.

The South Meridian Family YMCA building will have indoor courts, fitness areas, group exercise studios and youth development centers.

The youth development centers will host arts classes and times for free play for kids. The area will be staffed, providing parents with a place to part with their kids while exercising, according to executive director of the South Meridian Y, Mike Kapuscinski.

Kid Zone, another youth development center in the building with an indoor playground, will be geared toward children 6 and younger. Parents will be allowed to drop off their kids for two hours in Kid Zone as long as they’re still in the building, Kapuscinski said.

The Family Adventure Zone is a four-level play structure built large enough for adults and children. The building will also have a party room and bouncy house that members can rent out for parties.

The new Y also has family locker rooms, adult locker rooms and a gathering space. Kapuscinski said the family locker rooms ensure child safety. There are private changing rooms in the family locker rooms.

The building has three studios, which will host a number of different classes including tai chi, yoga, Zumba, group fitness and spin. One of the studios will also host classes for St. Luke’s patients.

“St. Luke’s is all about healthy living,” said Kapuscinski. “(They’re) not only about fixing the symptom, but the underlying cause.”

St. Luke’s Medical Center

St. Luke’s Medical Center will have an 8,000-square-foot center within the YMCA focusing on lifestyle medicine.

Pat Lara, an administrator with St. Luke’s, said the new center will provide preventative care for patients and treat the “root causes of the most common serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity and metabolic syndrome.”

The center will include classroom space, a teaching kitchen, a consultation room and a transitional gym.

The transitional gym is separate from the other workout equipment and is set up for individuals who otherwise might be intimidated by a normal gym setting, giving them a place to start, Lara said.

“There is so much noise (in a gym), and there are so many people,” Lara said. “It’s designed to be a lower stimulation environment with a clinical staff person responsible for that oversight.”

In the teaching kitchen, St. Luke’s staff will run demonstrations teaching patients and members of the community how to eat healthier, plant-based diets. The kitchen has screens in the room that will stream video of instructors. Those videos will also be streamed online.

“A lot of the focus will on nutritional medication,” Lara said. “Basic menu development makes people more likely to prepare whole foods and eat a plant-based diet.”

According to Kapuscinski, part of the goal of the collaboration is to help patients preparing for a surgery and teach them about healthy diet and exercise choices. This will hopefully result in the patient recovering enough to not get the surgery, or get the surgery and have a satisfactory outcome, he said.

The second floor of the new Y will house a clinic with physician psychologists, nurses, social workers, dietitians and physical therapists.

The facility will also have a pediatric clinic on the first floor, which will provide immunizations and other services, said Katie Apple, senior director of business operations for St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital.

Apple said the Treasure Valley is greatly underserved for pediatricians.

Roughly 200 to 300 St. Luke’s patients will use the YMCA per day, Lara estimates. St. Luke’s plans to replicate these types of programs, she said, in Nampa and Downtown Boise.

“This partnership between multiple members of the community is going to provide a lot of opportunities for services that are innovative that will help us move forward with our community health efforts,” Lara said.

This fall, St. Luke’s Medical Center plans to open a 12,000- to 16,000-square-foot clinic next door to the YMCA offering family medicine, pediatrics, physical therapy and behavioral health.

The Tiny Library

The Meridian Library District is repurposing a 300-square-foot storage unit into the Tiny Library at The Hill focused on early literacy programs.

The library, which will sit just outside the new YMCA, is anticipated to open Labor Day weekend. It will have books, games and tools to help parents interact with their kids.

According to Skye Corey, youth services librarian for the Meridian Library District, the most brain connections are made from birth to age 5.

Corey said the library will likely have between 500 to 700 books and early learning kits, board book kits, and Rascal Reader kits — designed to equip children with the skills they need to transition from wordless picture books to books with words.

The early literacy focus came from a survey the Meridian Library District conducted from local patrons and stakeholders, Corey said.

“We are trying to be very strategic about how we serve them,” Corey said.

Corey said there are not a ton of early literacy resources in the community, and she said this library will provide those resources to families regardless of their socioeconomic class.

The library will have books about learning the alphabet, potty training, puzzles and tools for letter recognition, Corey said.

Although the library won’t open until the fall, the library will be hosting several weekly story times and a kindergarten readiness class at the YMCA over the summer, Corey said.

The idea to open a “Tiny Library” came after voters twice turned down a Meridian Library District bond that would have funded construction of a library branch at the new Y facility and another new branch in North Meridian.

West Ada School District

Like many elementary schools in the valley, Hillsdale Elementary has a shared cafeteria-gymnasium space. Starting this fall, the YMCA will provide gym space for the Hillsdale students.

According to West Ada School District spokesman Eric Exline, students will get a full PE period that doesn’t need to be scheduled around lunch time.

“They’ll have more time,” Exline said. “I think that will help their fitness.”

According to Exline, the school only has about 5 acres of grass and playground space for students to use. The completion of the 10-acre Hillsdale Park has given students more space to spread out and play.

Hillsdale Park

Hillsdale Park will serve the students at Hillsdale Elementary and the community. The park has an agricultural theme and includes a walking path, playground and water feature.

“The park itself is designed to celebrate the agricultural heritage of the land,” said Steve Siddoway, director of the Meridian Parks and Recreation Department. “The land itself has been a family farm for over 100 years, and so we’re celebrating that heritage.”

That celebration is reflected in aspects of the park’s design including a playground emulating a tractor and the benches that look like hay bails.

“I hope by helping to tell the story of the land it will tie people to the roots of the land and the agricultural history,” Siddoway said.

The park has a half-mile pathway loop and grassy area that can be used as two multi-use sports fields, according to Siddoway.

The grand opening of Meridian’s Hillsdale Park, 3801 E. Hillpark St., is set for 5 to 8:30 p.m. on May 25. During the grand opening there will be a free concert by Arizona’s Beach Boys tribute band called the Southwest Surfers. The concert begins at 6 p.m.

The celebration will also include a classic car display, food trucks and activities put together by the South Meridian Family YMCA.

Siddoway said the significance of the land donation from Hill, Cook and the Brighton Corporation “could not be overstated.”

“We are fortunate to have this first-of-its-kind wellness, education, literacy and recreation hub in Meridian,” Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd said. “Collaboration is at the core of The Hill. The partnership is already garnering national attention and will serve as a model for other communities across the country.”

Memberships

As of May 9, the South Meridian Family YMCA has sold 1,000 memberships. Residents who buy memberships before May 18 will be considered charter members and will having their joining fee waived.

Charter members will also receive gift bags with a T-shirt for each person on the membership, one water bottle and one hand towel.

Charter members will have early access to the new facility during preview days before the facility opens on May 25. The preview dates have yet to be announced. Charter members will be alerted of exact dates.

Patty Bowen is the Meridian Press reporter. You can reach her at pbowen@idahopress.com.

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