Just days before the official start of summer, the JCC’s 16,000-plus square foot expansion opened, completing the bulk of a six-month long renovation project, with more improvements and finishing touches to come over the next few weeks.
In keeping with Maimonides, who said, “The health of the soul can only be achieved after the health of the body has been achieved,” the JCC is providing more opportunities than ever for the Columbus Jewish community to ensure that the tradition of Sh’mirat HaGuf, or “taking care of our bodies,” continues generation after generation.
With a new wing that includes a larger gymnasium, a bright and airy, enlarged fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, and open lounge, meeting, and kid-focused spaces throughout the renovated, existing space, the JCC is ready to meet the needs of the growing central Ohio Jewish community for the next 100 years.
More than meeting the health and wellness needs of the community, the JCC hopes the expansion will facilitate communal connection and commitment to Jewish community, nourishing not only the body, but also the soul.
Since the JCC Capital Campaign’s inception in 2007, the JCC has grown in size and scope—all with L’dor V’dor, linking the generations, in mind—to create a vibrant communal space that will appeal to every member of the community, now and into the future.
“We look forward to you, your children, and your children’s children coming to our new JCC to meet, connect, work out, compete, play, learn, interact, engage, laugh, enjoy, and just be a part of the Center of it all,” said JCC Executive Board Vice President Jennie Cammeyer, who has been a leader on the project from start to finish.
While a few finishing touches on the space remain to be completed, Immediate Past President Joe Sniderman is eager for members and the entire community to come see the new space and enjoy all that it offers. “This has been the most exciting project that I have worked on for our community. It was truly a community effort… over 530 donors, countless hours by Jennifer Cammeyer, Lisa Newmark, and our professional staff, Carol Folkerth and Mike Klapper. It is fun to walk through the new & renovated areas and hear how happy our members are. We are one of the best, if not the best, JCC in the country,” Sniderman said with great pride.
The possibilities for interactions at the JCC— such as connecting over coffee, engaging on an elliptical, or catching up on the basketball court— are seemingly endless now that the new addition is open. From high-tech cardio equipment to a brand new gym to more lounge space throughout the building — more space for working out, hanging out, and communing with friends awaits members of all ages.
One of the first things members will notice about the added space is just how open and inviting it is. With more room to move freely and breathe easily, members can now pause and enjoy each moment of their JCC visit, rather than rush through it.
“This is something that our members have not seen. There’s no other place like this in Bexley. JCCA said that once our expansion is done, we are going to be one of the top five JCCs in the country. That says a lot about our community, too, because without the community, there’s no way we could have done this,” said Jeanna Brownlee, JCC Director of Recreation and Wellness.
The biggest and most noticeable feature is the new 8,000 square foot gym, adjacent to the existing gym. Equipped with adjustable basketball hoops and all-purpose flooring, the new gym gives members more room for sports activities. Plus, the addition of batting cages and netting allows for indoor play of soccer, lacrosse, and other warm-weather sports. “It will give our members a lot more opportunities; it’s exciting. It’s not only 16,000 square feet of new space; it’s an additional 9,000 square feet of renovation to our existing space,” added Brownlee.
Member Frances Bloch can’t wait to maximize her workout potential in the added space. “When I first saw it, I thought: WOW! It’s fabulous. There’s enough space here for each type of exercise or equipment, so it’s awesome. I think I’ll probably do more classes now, especially yoga. I’m excited about it being all spread out and not congested, and just having more space.”
To make the most of all this new space, the JCC is adding some exciting features to offer more for its youngest members, as well. There’s the J-Zone, a youth fun and fitness area that offers an exergaming wall, with an interactive cycling game and video game, as well as air hockey and a Pop-A-Shot basketball game. The J-Zone is a supervised space for kids ages 6-12 to keep fit and hang out with friends after school. Next door, the J-Lounge is another great option for kids to gather together or watch TV.
“I’ve already played with the air hockey, Magic Motion, and the basketball game, and I love all of them,” said nine-year-old Samson Judd, son of JCC member Amy Silver-Judd. “My favorite things are the new chairs. They are fun to move around and build forts and hide-outs with. I’m really looking forward to hanging around with my friends here,” Samson added.
In addition to the J-Zone, the K-Zone, designed with younger children in mind, will be an expanded babysitting space for ages 6 weeks to eight years. A new, separated crawling area is perfect for pre-walkers and toddlers. A creative play zone with kitchen, tool bench, and train table offers something for little chefs, builders, and engineers to occupy their imaginations. And to burn off all that excess energy, there’s the Large Muscle Zone and Ball Zone, where climbers, ball hoppers, and a ball pit await little ones eager to get their wiggles out.
Another unique feature of the K-Zone is that when babysitting hours end, the space remains open for children accompanied by an adult. The K-Zone is a great resource for young families to meet and maintain friendships with other families in the community while their children play. The open, indoor play space is especially convenient when outdoor play isn’t an option.
“Our kids are already loving the K-Zone! Plus we’re excited that this new expansion creates opportunities for everyone at the JCC. It’s a great place to be for so many different sports and other activities,” said Lindsay Schottenstein, whose family is among the biggest supporters of the JCC and the expansion project.
Treadmills and ellipticals equipped with personal TVs, some even with Internet access, in the expanded fitness center now face floor-to-ceiling windows that open to a view of the enhanced patio. There, soon-to-arrive tables and chairs will encourage interaction in the beautified outdoor space. The fitness desk now faces members as they walk down the stairs, where friendly faces eagerly await to greet them. Glass walls surround the newly constructed Personal Training offices, inviting members into a more approachable workspace in which eight personal trainers are ready to assist clients with fitness assessments, discuss fitness goals, and meet fitness targets during private training sessions.
Brian Saunders leads the personal training program as Fitness Director of the JCC. Now that the JCC is on the cutting edge of fitness offerings, he said, “We have capabilities for a lot of functional, dynamic movement that we have not had before. The Center’s really ahead of the competition. I now have up to 7,000 square feet of space to be training people in, so the opportunity to really enhance our members’ fitness level, and keep them healthy, strong, and fit for the future, that’s what I’m excited about,” said Saunders.
One of Saunders’ clients and a near-lifelong JCC member, Joel Schwartz, was blown away by the new offerings in the Fitness Center. “I’ve been doing personal training or working out here since Day One. I come here twice a day. Brian Saunders really keeps me in good shape and challenges me,” said Schwartz. “Today’s my first day on the new equipment. That equipment is great. It’s going to be a really big benefit to the Center,” Schwartz praised the JCC’s expansion.
The expanded fitness area offers the latest in cardio equipment like new Precor Treadmills, along with more fitness classes. “There’s going to be a lot more space for group fitness like TRX-style and CrossFit-style classes and more mind/body wellness offerings,” said Jeanna Brownlee.
Another new feature to which members can look forward is the tripled-in-size weight and functional training space decked out with new equipment, music and TVs. More small-group training will also be offered, like functional training for the way you live. A new pilates reformer can be used in mind/body classes and during private pilates training.
Some of the new classes members can expect to see on the fall schedule include a metabolic conditioning class, a barre strength class, tabata, and a core/flexibility class. New faces and new offerings for women, children, and seniors are also in the works. “I am really excited to have an expanded facility with more workout options for members across the spectrum,” said Beth McCullough, Director of Group Fitness, who has been planning for the opening of the new addition for the last few months and added that she can’t wait to roll out these new offerings starting in July.
Meyers + Associates, the architecture firm behind the project, designed every last detail with members’ ease of use in mind, to allow for a communal use of the space. Multipurpose and lounge space were added in several areas of the building to cultivate a feeling of openness and an atmosphere conducive to conversation, complete with couches, televisions, and much more to make members’ interaction and experience at the JCC as user-friendly as possible.
Like the bowling lanes of the former Jewish Center, the College Avenue expansion is intended to bring people together to hang out, socialize, and celebrate. In the new space, members can look forward to using the new gym lounge and lobby for events like birthday parties and tournaments. “We will have everything from meetings and luncheons to birthday parties and b’nei mitzvot,” said JCC Assistant Executive Director Mike Klapper of the new multipurpose space.
The additional space can accommodate such events with its kitchen, beverage station, and nearby restrooms, Klapper said. It all adds up to year-round offerings for fitness buffs, for families, for sports junkies, and everyone in between—making the J a place where everyone from toddlers to empty-nesters can find something to do no matter the season.
Jon and Susie Diamond have been big supporters of the JCC, from their family’s commitment to fitness through their creation of the Diamond Family Fitness Center to the current expansion of that space. “I think expanding the facilities and allowing more opportunity for simultaneous use of the gym by younger kids and older kids and adults all at the same time allows our facilities to be more available,” said Jon Diamond. “From what I’ve seen… it looks phenomenal. It has a lot of great flow and functionality built into it. I think it’s going to be terrific for the community to have for the next 100 years.”
Long-time JCC member Ron Feerer echoed Jon Diamond’s sentiments. “The upgrade is long overdue. It brought us up another notch to compete with the other health clubs in the area. There’s a great feeling down here; it’s really very special. I’m looking forward to being here every day,” said Feerer.
The JCC is very grateful to the more than 530 members of the community who have supported the JCC’s Capital Campaign, with major support from Leslie and Abigail Wexner; the Jay and Jeanie, Joey and Lindsay, Jonathan, and Jeffrey Schottenstein family; and from the Columbus Jewish Foundation. The JCC also truly appreciates and is thankful to its members who were so patient throughout the entire construction process, and especially during the final phase of construction.