• Sun September 11 2005
  • Posted Sep 11, 2005
Lighting that pulses with the beat of the music and laser images that dance across the walls are not just for dance clubs and rock concerts anymore. The Riverfront YMCA opened a new power pacing studio for group cycling in July, designed with colorful lighting and a state-of-the-art sound system to create ambience for participants, according to Luke Seward, the branch’s executive director. “When you’re in a cycling class, you’re glued to the bicycle, and you need to find ways to make it exciting,” Seward said. “Class is a lot different from when you’re riding outdoors and have a lot of stimulus all around you, and we wanted to create an environment that lets you suspend reality a little bit so you forget that you’re really in a room with a bunch of sweaty people.” Group cycling is one of the most popular programs at the Riverfront Y. Seward estimates that at his branch, about 250 to 300 people take cycling classes, which are offered at least three times per day, Monday through Friday. “The cyclists are some of the most dedicated members of the Y,” Seward said. “Many of them work hard year-round to stay in shape, and you’ll see many of them come to classes as a group.” By last winter, the Y was running out of space for its cycling students, who practically crammed themselves shoulder-to-shoulder in a small room that had once served as a kitchen. The leaders of the YMCA of Greater Des Moines decided to build a larger cycling studio at the Riverfront branch in one of its older racquetball courts. Work began on the project in January. “We’ve had spinning classes for more than a decade, and until we expanded our studio, we’d been fairly capped out,” Steward said. “The driving force for us in creating the new studio was to get more space, but in the meantime, we found a way to generate a much more exciting class.” Seward said staff members talked with cycling instructors and students about what their “dream studio” would include, and designed the new one based on that input. The project cost about $20,000. “We did our best to incorporate their ideas within our budgetary constraints, and we ended up with what I think is the coolest place to cycle in Iowa,” Seward said. Converting the racquetball court into a cycling studio was an involved process. Walls had to be carpeted and sound-absorbing panels installed on one side of the room to improve acoustics. Mike Lambert, a lighting designer with Durrant Group Inc., oversaw the lighting portion of the project, installing suspended theatrical accent track lighting above the bikes, automated color-changing image projectors and color-changing accent lights. Some of the lights have microphones attached to them, which allow them to synchronize with the beat of the music. The studio also has 30 new stationary bicycles, whereas the old studio only had room for 20. WHO radio talk show host Jan Mickelson, one of the group cycling instructors, said the room is a nice upgrade and much more user-friendly than the old cycling studio. “The mood created by the new lighting distracts me from the pain, and the music keeps you pumped,” Mickelson said. “We have all new fans now, and it stays nice and cool and breezy in here, like you’re in the outdoors.” In addition to the new cycling studio, the Riverfront YMCA is working on several other improvement projects in preparation for a growing population of downtown residents. The gymnasium floor is being resurfaced and the men’s fitness center locker room is getting new flooring and updates to its lockers. Seward said both of these projects should be finished by the end of this month. Another project involves putting the finishing touches on two fitness studios that were built in the past year and a half in the same area where the power pacing studio is located. “In the wing where we have the cycling studio, it’s actually the third racquetball court we’ve converted into a fitness studio,” Seward said. “These older courts hadn’t been used very much since we added a whole wing of racquetball and handball courts many years ago, so turning the older ones into studios is a better use of space for us.” The YMCA of Greater Des Moines has expanded two of its branches in the past year and opened a ninth location in Boone Sept. 1. Seward is happy to see the Riverfront branch, the oldest one in the system, finally getting some attention. “We’ve devoted a lot of our resources to increase the overall impact of the YMCA in our suburban branches and we haven’t had as many upgrades at the Riverfront, the oldest facility,” he said. “This is a great time for us to be investing in the Riverfront branch, because there will be an influx of people living here and coming here as a destination in the coming years as the downtown population grows with new housing and the Principal Riverwalk being built right in front of our building.” By Sharon Baltes

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