Permanent closure of the JCC health club

The Jewish Community Center. (Courtesy of JCC Facebook)

The community center can no longer afford to operate its fitness facilities, its CEO said.

The Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit in West Bloomfield Township is closing its health club, effective immediately.

Brian D. Siegel, CEO of the JCC, spoke exclusively with the jn to explain how it all happened. He said the decision was due to a mixture of financial, philosophical, political and practical reasons, all exacerbated in different ways by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The financial impact has a lot to do with the fact that the JCC has suffered from “overbuilt” real estate over the past 20 years, Siegel said.

The health club was contributing to overhead but not making a net profit, and that was even before the pandemic. If the health club were to open, the short-term impact would be devastating and the long-term impact even worse, according to Siegel.

Health club membership has seen a 50% decline over the past decade. A crucial part of this decline is the decline in Jewish affiliation.

“What was once a core value proposition, of Jews wanting a safe place to train alongside other Jews, is gone for the majority of people,” Siegel told the jn. “The JCC Health Club was declining both due to a loss of its core value proposition, but also a exploding competitive market.”

Before the pandemic, the JCC was involved in a committee process with representatives from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and the United Jewish Foundation to try to resolve its real estate issues.

“A plan has been laid out to drastically reduce the size of the JCC, including reducing the size of the health club,” Siegel said.

The pandemic quickly accelerated the plans. A new committee has been formed with the Federation, to see how the pandemic has affected the JCC’s previous plans to “adjust the size” of the building.

Instead of simply reducing the size of the health club, the new committee decided to close it completely.

The committee is releasing a report, and the report will recommend that the health club be demolished. Until the money is collected to demolish this part of the building, it will be closed or its use will be drastically changed.

“We owe a very firm debt of gratitude to our members,” Siegel said. “We have great respect for the historic nature of this operation. No decision was made casually and without great diligence. We look forward to a very bright future, but mourn the loss of a program and the loss of community for the members who call the Health Club home.

In a joint statement, the incoming and outgoing presidents of JFMD and the United Jewish Foundation said they were aware of the decision to close the health club, but the decision was up to the JCC.

“We know this is a painful time for those who have called the Health Club home for decades,” the statement read. “Like each of the local partner agencies that receive funding from the Federation, the JCC operates independently and is responsible for all decisions regarding its programs and services. We strongly support the work of the JCC to enrich Jewish life in our community and to evolve as needed to accomplish its mission. We entrust the management of the organization to its professional and volunteer leadership, including its officers and board of directors.

The club was also failing to recruit younger members. “Young Jews today don’t decide where to train based on where there are other Jews or not,” Siegel said.

Politically, Siegel said the JCC tried to negotiate with the community to take responsibility for a building that no longer fits its purposes.

“It was only the crisis that allowed this conversation to be productive,” Siegel said.

The political question the JCC asked itself was what they should do with a 340,000 square foot building with business operations that no longer support it.

The JCC operated as a sub-owner of the building, with the property being owned by the United Jewish Foundation.

On a practical level, Siegel said the JCC realized that the building could not simply be reduced to a “hodgepodge” and had to have specific blueprints in place on which parts were reduced.

The “right-sized committee” had planned to keep the health club before the pandemic, and was going to fill the indoor pool and place a new health club there.

The pandemic put an end to that, and it was agreed that a more aggressive demolition and downsizing of the JCC made the most sense.

“The JCC is going to be a much more nimble and financially viable operation that no longer has to chase a building that it can’t afford,” Siegel said. “This is a historic moment, a heartbreaking moment, but a critical moment for the future of the TCG.”

The outdoor swimming pool will remain, the aim being that it be covered with an inflatable structure so that it becomes a swimming pool all year round. The indoor pool will be closed long-term, but short-term plans are uncertain.

JCC Basketball Leagues will move to Rosenberg Center, with the area that currently houses volleyball being converted with wood floors added so that basketball can be played there.

There will be no negative impact or implications for Maccabi Games Detroit, and the JCC expects them to have full capacity to provide all services for future Maccabi Games.

The JCC intends to retain its JCC day camps, with the aim of renovating their permanent day camp center into a “world class day camp” in partnership with Tamarack Camps, the management entity that runs the fields. Efforts are already underway for the renovation, and the JCC expects day camps to be an essential part of what they do in the future.

Frankel Jewish Academy’s athletic department currently uses many of the JCC’s athletic facilities. Siegel said the JCC intends to fulfill all obligations under its current lease with the FJA, which could mean using existing gymnasiums until alternative spaces are found at the Rosenberg Center.

The membership model will simply cease to exist.

“We intend to partner with our members to build a robust wellness operation, but it will not be membership-based,” Siegel said.

There are elements that will look like a membership, but it will be a paid service. For example, there may be monthly passes that will allow a person to swim every day, but no traditional subscription model.

Siegel didn’t give specific numbers, but said many JCC members would lose their jobs, including many longtime employees who worked at the health club, which Siegel describes as just as heartbreaking as the closure. of the club.

A formal vote took place on Tuesday morning, and the executive committee and board of directors voted overwhelmingly in favor of the closure.

The health club is located in the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Building, which currently spans 340,000 square feet. The committee proposes to demolish approximately 110,000 square feet, leaving the remaining JCC with approximately 140,000 square feet (not including 90,000 allocated for other tenants and service areas).

“It was time for a paradigm shift,” JCC President Mark Rubenfire said in a press release. “For decades, the JCC had financial difficulties. Much of the problem was related to the size and deteriorated nature of the building. Reducing our footprint will free up capital and resources to return to our core mission of building a more vibrant Jewish community by collaborating to create world-class education and engagement programs in the Detroit metro area.


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