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Jyväskylän kaupunki » Uutisarkisto » Major sports and wellbeing centre being built in Jyväskylä

Major sports and wellbeing centre being built in Jyväskylä – Expert: “Exercise should be made easy for people”

The largest indoor sports centre in the Nordic countries offers new sports facilities and exercise classes for people living in Jyväskylä. Some of its current users are thinking whether the new facilities will be a bit too fancy for regular users.

Summary of an article published in Helsingin Sanomat on 8 January 2017 by journalist Minna Pölkki

In the next few years, people living in Jyväskylä have every right to be happy. The city has decided to invest more than one billion euros in exercise, health and wellbeing. A gigantic new sports centre will rise in Hippos, next to the Central Finland Central Hospital.

According to Ari Karimäki, Director of Sports and Culture services in Jyväskylä, Hippos will be the largest indoor sports centre in the Nordic countries. Its current facilities will more than double in size. There will also be an outdoor sports park, research activities, businesses, a hotel, shops and apartments in the area.

Pekka Paananen (60), a resident of Jyväskylä, is a walking example of what investments in healthcare and exercise can achieve.

In 2000, Paananen was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and he underwent numerous operations. “Our excellent healthcare services have saved me. Because of my background as an active exerciser and my strong will, it was also easy for me to start getting back into shape. If it wasn't for these, I wouldn't be here,” says Paananen who is working out at the Hippos gym.

Jyväskylä University has the only Faculty of Sport and Health sciences in Finland, and Jyväskylä is also home to the Research Institute for Olympic Sports (KIHU) and the Research Centre for Physical Activity and Health (LIKES).

This means that many top athletes are already visiting Jyväskylä to undergo tests and receive guidance. What do regular people living in Jyväskylä gain from the new Hippos centre?

According to Director of Business Development and Employment Anne Sandelin, the aim is to shift the focus of expertise in research and measurements more from professional sports towards regular people. The new businesses to be situated in the area are expected to offer commercial products related to exercise and wellbeing.

Of the major investments of more than one billion euros, Hippos accounts for more than EUR 300 million and the hospital area EUR 700 million. The majority of the funds allocated to Hippos will be acquired from private investors. The sports centre is run by Hippos Oy, a company in which the City of Jyväskylä is a minority shareholder.

Currently, Hippos is used by more than one hundred sports clubs that have access to new modern facilities. According to Sandelin, the new facilities, hotel and services will make it possible to host various events and develop club activities. The aim is to increase the number of visits from the current 1.5 million to 3–5 million. The city promises that the current sports events will still be available in Hippos, but there will also be new ones. “We are looking for multi-purpose facilities in order to use them effectively,” Sandelin says.

Kari Kasurinen, Director of Gymnastics Club Jyväskylän Voimistelijat '79, is happy with their current facilities in the cellar of Monitoimitalo. The facilities are expected to improve, but there are also concerns over availability and cost increases. “We don't want to have excellent facilities which people cannot afford to use,” says Kasurinen, director of a club with 1,500 members.

According to Anne Sandelin, fee increases will be moderate. She states that there would be increases even if the facilities were only renovated.

The current Hippos facilities are, in any case, in need of a facelift. The city invests the amount required for renovations, EUR 30 million, in the construction of the new Hippos. “Repairs would require the same amount of money, without giving us the extra space. Now that this project is run through private investors, the same assets produce more and better facilities,” Sandelin says´.

The City of Jyväskylä is committed to buying hours from Hippos with EUR 5 million in ten years. Children and young people are under special focus: hours allocated to schools, day-care centres and young people will be free.

“We can't afford to build a centre which doesn't cater to regular people. I'm certain that there will be a right place for everyone at Hippos,” Karimäki says. In Finland, sports resorts, such as Vierumäki, are located far from urban centres. Here, all the city’s services are near,” Karimäki continues.

More than half of the EUR 700 million allocated to the Kukkula project, or the modernisation of the hospital area, will be spent on the new hospital with modern facilities and treatment chains. In the future, investments will be made in the prevention of illnesses and rehabilitation, where the aim is also to utilise the opportunities offered by Hippos. The area will be home to, for example, health technology and treatment companies, a patient hotel and apartments.

The easier it is to exercise, the more people will do it

Finnish towns have made different investments to promote the exercise possibilities, health and wellbeing of their residents. What investments produce the most benefits?

According to Timo Ståhl, Chief Specialist at the National Institute for Health and Welfare, towns should focus on children and young people. An active lifestyle adopted early is also reflected in the health and welfare of adults. “It is important that children exercise on their own or in sports clubs,” Ståhl says. Ståhl considers it to be problematic in sports clubs that exercise becomes competitive and expensive too early. Ståhl also challenges clubs and towns to consider how to activate those adults who drive their children to practice and stand there to watch their children play.

According to Ståhl, people are doing more exercise in general, but less when travelling to or from work and during their time off. His advice is a simple one: the easier it is to exercise, the more people will do it.

23.1.2017Satu Heikkinen

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