New Wellness Facility Planned in N. Georgia near Chattanooga

Oct. 2, 2006
Erlanger hospital and YMCA to build joint facility

A new YMCA wellness center in North Georgia could be under construction as soon as fall 2007 after officials with Erlanger hospital and the YMCA agreed on a plan to build a joint facility.

Hospital trustees Thursday night approved an agreement with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga to locate a jointly operated facility on Erlanger property on Battlefield Parkway in Catoosa County.

"I think it's a natural marriage," said Roger Forgey, Erlanger senior vice president of business development. "I think it's great for people in North Georgia."

Bill Wetzel, local YMCA president and chief executive officer, said Erlanger and the YMCA had been planning separate new facilities in North Georgia, and the partnership will help both organizations.

"Their presence (in North Georgia) was small, and ours is small, and now both of us are going to be bigger," Mr. Wetzel said.

YMCA leaders will try to raise about $750,000 toward the $4.7 million price tag on the facility over the next few months, he said. If all goes well, they will hire an architect to work on the project early next year, he said.

According to the plan, the wellness center would include a traditional fitness facility and doctors' offices. There will be space for expansion if Erlanger locates rehabilitation providers or other specialists there.

Under terms of the agreement, the YMCA would lease the property from Erlanger, and the hospital would lease space inside the building for their physicians.

The hospital will lease 7,741 square feet of the building that is planned to be about 44,000 square feet in all.

Currently, two family physicians operate an office on the property in a small portable building. That practice is growing and needs new space, Mr. Forgey said. Those two physicians' offices will use up a little more than half of Erlanger's leased space in the wellness center, he said.

A broader presence in North Georgia is part of Erlanger's long-term strategy, he said.

"They're really part of our metropolitan area, even if we think of them as being in another state," he said. "The first patient at Erlanger was from North Georgia."

The business plan for the venture calls for about a $6,000 profit per year for Erlanger over the first five years after construction, rising in subsequent years.

Mr. Wetzel said the YMCA had raised about $100,000 toward a new North Georgia YMCA when plans to locate a new facility at the Benton Place Campus, a publicly owned industrial park, fell through last year.

The YMCA operates a joint facility with Memorial Hospital at the Hamilton Family YMCA on Shallowford Road. Mr. Wetzel said that facility would be a model for how the North Georgia center will work.