OLEAN – As the leaves begin to fall and snowstorms won’t be long in coming, the Olean YMCA now offers more than a dozen outdoor sports options from the comfort of its large indoor spaces.
Over the summer, the YMCA turned one of its rooms into the SIM ZONE, a room with a sports simulator computer program where users practice their golf swing, hit a few home runs, score a buzzing soccer goal, and even hit a few zombies with dodgeball.
Curtis “CJ” Pierce, senior program director at the YMCA, said the simulator program had 13 different sports to choose from, including carnival games and zombie dodgeball, the most popular choices for the kids.
“The big draw, however, is golfing,” he said. “There are 84 different PGA-level courses including some of the most famous courses in the world like Pebble Beach.”
The SIM ZONE room was previously the Kids Adventure Zone, where kids played while their parents exercise or take a fitness class, Pierce said. The foam blocks and play structures in the adventure zone were moved to another children’s room, where they are still in use.
In the meantime, the SIM ZONE room has been given a new carpet, a fresh coat of paint on the walls and ceiling, furniture that gives it a cave or party room feel, and a computer system, projector, sensors and a screen that shows all sports activities captured, renovated and displayed.
“There’s only one other YMCA in the country that has that. We’re number two, ”said Pierce. “There’s a place in Jamestown called Mulligan’s on Fairmount, and they have the same simulator.”
All equipment and different types of balls for the sports are available in the SIM ZONE, Pierce said. Golfers are welcome to bring their own clubs, but are asked to use the golf balls provided by the YMCA.
On the platform where golf balls are hit, a number of sensors and cameras detect and record a range of statistics such as ball speed, club head speed and tee angle, Pierce explained. Four more sensors near the screen capture the rest of the information for golf and the other sports to show where the ball is going on the screen.
“We left a 14-inch gap behind the screen so we could hit real golf balls and throw real baseball and soft balls,” he said. “We are happy. We got the complete package for golf and the complete package for the games.”
In addition to individual use, the YMCA organizes golf leagues and tournaments. The golf leagues for men and women start in the first week of October. The women’s leagues take place on Tuesdays and Fridays, the men’s leagues on Thursdays and Saturdays.
The kick-off golf tournament now runs until October 2nd. The next tournament, an alternative shot for two people, will take place from November 1st to 6th. The last tournament of the year, an Ugly Sweater tournament for the holidays, is scheduled from December 13th to 18th.
“Because it wouldn’t be possible to get through all of them in one day in the simulator, you can play your round all week,” said Pierce.
SIM ZONE had its soft opening in early September, but Pierce said it was already a huge hit with members and for kids’ parties. He said he expected the popularity to increase as the weather gets colder and snowier.
“It’s a little slower than we expected, but we get two, three, sometimes five reservations a week,” he said. “We’re eager to get people here, so just give us a call.”
Starting in October, the YMCA will start a youth program called A Different Way to Play, where children can try out all 13 sports and games for eight weeks.
“It teaches kids a different way of training, and therefore the way to train with technology,” he said.
Golf options are for 9 or 18 holes or for practicing on the driving range. For all other sports, hourly rental fees apply at membership and non-member rates.
Reserve a time slot in person at the Olean YMCA front desk at 373-2400 ext. 104 or by email to Pierce at [email protected]