Parents Heartbroken Over the Closing of LVAC Kids Club
~ By Wallis Larson, Lakeview Mom
Take a walk down Belmont tomorrow morning around 10:00am. You’ll pass a small building with a neon sign that reads Kids Club. For most of you, that building won’t get a second look. For some of you, if you are paying attention, you might hear the sounds of children laughing. If you take some time to figure it out, you’ll realize the building houses the daycare for the Lakeview Athletic Club just around the corner. Simple right? You’d be wrong. Magic happens there. I met my best friend in that building. That building saved my marriage.
Last Wednesday, about a hundred local families received a letter in their email inboxes around 12:00am. In the letter, we were informed that the Kids Club, a mainstay for families in the Lakeview neighborhood, would be closing its doors November 1. For the owners of Chicago Athletic Clubs, the building has simply become too expensive. They’d rather lose families as members (or so we assume) than lose money.
I’m a stay at home mom of two daughters, aged 9 months and 2 ½ years. I don’t have a full-time nanny, and I don’t have the kind of disposable income that allows me to the opportunity to have each of my girls enrolled in an endless stream of enrichment classes. I also like to work out and set a strong example of a healthy lifestyle for my kids. For me, Kids Club is an integral part of each of my days. It’s a safe, reliable place with excellent caregivers who know and LOVE my kids, and it allows me to get in a workout, answer an email, take a shower, and return to my kids refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day. When my kids were infants, it was often the only way I could catch a break to get a shower and grab a snack (thus the saving of my marriage).
Kids Club may have started as a gym daycare, but it has become much, much more than that. In a neighborhood that thrives on family (yes, Chicago Athletic Club, in spite of what your numbers tell you, this IS a family neighborhood), it, and the LVAC gym, are a central part of this community. Moms get together there to talk shop – schools, schedules. Families use it for Family Swim on the weekends. Even the local public school uses it for after school swim classes.
Closing the doors of the Kids Club won’t only mean that moms like me won’t have a place to get in a quick session on the elliptical, it means a lot of families in this community are suddenly going to be spending a lot less time IN this neighborhood. Instead of grabbing dinner at Wilde, Melrose Diner, or Stella’s after a trip to the pool on a Saturday afternoon, we will be frequenting the restaurant around the block from our new pool. Moms won’t bring their kids for tea and a snack at Argo on a weekday morning – they’ll do it at the Starbucks around the corner from their new gym. Baby Gap will have a lot less traffic, as will the bookstore a few blocks north. At a time when more and more businesses are investing in this neighborhood, Chicago Athletic Clubs is sending a strong message that they don’t plan to invest in this neighborhood or in families anymore.
To date, in spite of our best efforts, the management of Chicago Athletic Clubs refuses to engage in a discussion about an alternative. As the news trickles down to those who didn’t get the email, you’ll occasionally see a mom crying in the locker room. For me, I’m trying to figure out how I’ll explain to my toddler, when she asks me, as she has every morning for as long as she’s been able to talk, when we’ll head to Kids Club, that Kids Club doesn’t live here anymore.
* Please share this article with your friends and family in Chicago, and email LVAC to let them know – nicely – that you think they should meet with Wallis and other parents to find a solution.