By Jeff Lampe

A wellness center on the north edge of town took one more step toward becoming reality last Thursday – though several larger leaps are still to come. A crowd of more than 55 people gathered on a sultry morning to hear details about the proposed Community Wellness Center, which planners hope will open in 2025 on the west side of Illinois Route 78, adjacent to the Graham Medical Clinic. The $12.4-million, 33,000- square-foot facility will feature a swimming pool, basketball courts, an indoor walking track, workout equipment, a community room and various programs coordinated by the YMCA, which is partnering with the Elmwood Community Foundation and Graham Medical to spearhead the joint venture. At present, the site of the proposed center is planted in corn. “It is a field of dreams,” said Tony Hart, president of the ECF, which has been working on the project for nearly eight years. “When we come back for the ribbon-cutting, I have one suggestion: Let’s do it indoors in the air conditioning,” U.S. Rep Darin LaHood said, drawing a laugh from the sweaty crowd. How soon that ribbon-cutting will happen depends on how well fundraising proceeds. Hart said the campaign is so far in the silent phase, with a public drive to start around Sept. 1. So far, a total of $5,250,000 has been raised, according to Andy Thornton, director of the Peoria YMCA, which will run operations at the new center. That includes $3.75 million in federal dollars that LaHood and former U.S. Rep Cheri Bustos…READ MORE