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Study suggests 'a huge interest' in Palmetto YMCA

PALMETTO -- A 106-page report evaluating interest in a new YMCA in Palmetto concluded such a facility would have a good chance of success, YMCA officials said Monday.

“A huge interest exists for a new Palmetto YMCA,” said Li Li, managing partner of FourSquare Research, Inc., an Atlanta firm that does market research and strategic planning for nonprofit organizations.

After announcing results of the study, she recommended a full-service facility with 15,000 square feet of interior space, along with a year-round, outdoor pool equipped with an aquatic playground and lanes for lap swimming, aqua walking and running.

There was some discussion about a public/private partnership that might develop to raise funds for a new YMCA, similar to how a new Parrish YMCA was built. It is a county owned facility but is operated by the YMCA.

The YMCA also would boast a wellness center, group exercise studios, multipurpose classrooms and child watch/baby-sitting area, Kids Zone with moonwalks and a climbing maze, showers, lockers, and changing rooms, and a members’ lounge/snackbar/social area.

Sean Allison, YMCA president/chief executive officer, noted that the study, which was presented to the Palmetto City Commission, indicated a market penetration of close to 10 percent, more than twice the national average.

The report also evaluated opportunities for outdoor recreational activities, and found Palmetto residents showed a strong interest.

Researchers did a scientifically-designed telephone poll of 600 households whose residents did not belong to a YMCA. Results showed a 95 percent confidence level, with an accuracy of plus or minus 4.9 percent, according to Li.

It found 57 percent are current participants in physical activities, above the national average of 54-55 percent; 43 percent said they did not participate in physical activities.

Of all households that do not belong to a YMCA in the area targeted for the study, a total of 9.8 percent had a great deal of interest in joining a new Y regardless of location, the study found.

However, price-sensitivity for potential customers was particularly acute since the area’s median household income hovers at $41,828, or $13,000 less than the national average, Li said.

The study focused on several general areas where the YMCA could be built, with the vicinity of 10th Street and 10th Avenue coming in first and Blackstone Park second.

The YMCA also showed surprisingly high name recognition, with well over 40 percent already familiar with the brand, it said.

“That really bodes well, it saves a lot of money in marketing,” Li explained.

The report was presented to the YMCA board earlier in the day, Allison said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.

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