Mary Free Bed YMCA

Grand Rapids



Universal Design Makes Healthy Living Accessible to All

Since its grand opening in 2015, the Mary Free Bed YMCA has surpassed expectations and seen incredible results in member attraction and retention, programming, and energy efficiency. They have incorporated eight new adaptive sports programs, 19 new programs, and welcomed 352% more monthly gate visits and 181% more senior members. Additionally, net revenue has increased 25%, memberships have increased 291%, and utility expenses have decreased by 14%.
electrical-engineering, civil-engineering, mechanical-engineering, structural-engineering, architecture, universal-design, sustainable-design, master-planning, interior-design, landscape-architecture

Project Details

Mary Free Bed YMCA
120,000 square feet
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A Fully Inclusive Health and Rehabilitation Center

The Mary Free Bed YMCA is a 36-acre, LEED-certified community health and wellness facility that supports children, adults, and families throughout West Michigan with unbridled ease of access to healthy living. Completed in 2015, this revolutionary new facility was designed with everyone in mind using the principles of universal design.

The facility fills a need in the local community – it gives persons with disabilities a place to go and work out, just like anyone else. Additionally, with fields and courts designed specifically for their needs, wheelchair and adaptive sports teams in the Grand Rapids area are able to practice more often and grow.

Color and lighting also played a vital role in the facility's accessibility. To adhere to Universal Design standards, color schemes, color sensitivity, and image detection — as well as clearly stated color names on signage — makes wayfinding simple. Light fixtures and levels were also carefully determined to reduce glare, increase safety, and limit eye strain for those with sensory limitations.

With an innovative and highly navigable ramp, variety of self-operated ADA pool lifts, and even zero access pools, the facility emphasizes accessibility and ease and flexibility at every touchpoint.

Photo Credit: Mary Free Bed YMCA
Increase in Membership
More Monthly Gate Visits
More Senior Members
New Adaptive
Sports Programs

Setting a New Standard for Wellness

Leaders of the Southwest YMCA in Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose branch was built prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, were challenged with making their small and aging facility accessible and welcoming to more people in the community. As they began to envision an all-new location that would reflect the YMCA’s commitment to community and inclusion, planners realized that a change of this magnitude would require innovative thinking and key partnerships.

With a lead donation from the Mary Free Bed Guild, the YMCA partnered with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, a national leader in rehab medicine and local hub for the adaptive sports community. Working with the Progressive Companies' design team, stakeholders came together to develop a new standard in wellness, one that would invite people of all abilities to experience fully accessible and universally designed health and wellness.

"What makes it so wonderful is that people with disabilities can come here and improve their quality of life, just like someone without a disability. It makes our athletes feel empowered. It makes them feel confident that they have a place they can play just like anyone else."
Maria Besta, Manager, Recreational Therapy and Adaptive Sports, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital