This month we were pleased to speak with Gary Goodwin of the Hyrdo and Aquatic Therapy Studio, (HATS) Inc. project based in Woodsville, NH. This Aquatic Fitness and Wellness Center, once constructed, will serve not only patients with post-operative needs, but will also host weight loss classes, prenatal classes, infant rescue, conditioning therapy for ailments such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Scoliosis, and conditioning and toning for all ages. In future phases, the facility will also provide aquatic facilities for community and educational use as well as other amenities such as a rock climbing wall and land-based fitness resources. For more information, please visit www.hydroaquaticcenter.org. Send letters of support to Gary Goodwin, c/o HATS, Inc., 11 Pine Street, Woodsville, NH 03785.
How did you start this project?
It came about around six years ago. I was training people and seeing the need for aquatics. I knew a little but started learning more and more about aquatics and athletic training. There has been a lot of research done on aquatics and all of the sudden the medical community is opening their eyes and seeing that it is something valuable that is really helping. I thought it would also be good to have the schools involved in the project as well as providing a community pool for the community. So I thought why not set it up like a shopping mall? You will have all these amenities but they are completely separate from one another. They each will have their own area and won’t have to mingle. You won’t be mixing senior citizens and kids in the same bathrooms and locker rooms.
How can your fellow businesses help if they want to support the project?
Letters of support will help a lot. Some of the grants that we’re doing require letters of support from the community. Having those letters available will give us the opportunity to provide samples to the funding sources when needed. We have already gotten people who said they will support this. For example, we have a great letter of support from Maria Ryan, CEO of Cottage Hospital which says that this is something that could be very helpful to the area. We also have a Letter of Support from Little Rivers Health Care as well as other individuals and businesses.
An example of such grants is one we just received for $16,000 for a feasibility study from a private foundation. The foundation is Dextra Baldwin McGonagle Foundation, Inc. which is based in New York. We are also now working with the North County Council to put together the study and follow their recommendations along with Grafton County Economic Development.
How would this project affect the local economy and the local community?
The most important thing about the project is Phase 1, the clinical aspect of it. We have the opportunity to create something that you’re not going to find in this area within a good 100 mile radius. It gives us the ability to service people within a 50 mile radius and creates a destination which attracts people to our area. We did the demographics of a 50-mile radius of P&H Truck Stop. This gives you a population of almost 360,000 people and 12% of that population is over 70. Within that population, there are a lot of people going through physical therapy for joint replacements, for different types of surgeries and for different types of diseases. The facility will attract lots of people to our local area who will shop, eat and stay in our communities. We would partner with lodging and restaurants as well as other businesses. I have already been connecting with certain growing businesses who are interested. Along with our feasibility study, we are doing an economic impact study to see what money the project will bring to the area. We will be putting a full land-based fitness facility on the second floor and somebody will be able lease that. There is also going to be the opportunity for someone to run a café and also a boutique at the facility. It is going to employ quite a few people. Right now, it looks like it will employ 25 people full time.
Where are you looking to locate the facility?
We are hoping for the elementary school in Woodsville, if that site becomes available, which is approximately 7.5 acres. However, we are always keeping our eyes out for other locations. Woodsville is a very strategic area. You are right off the interstate and it is very visible. Another location might be above Cottage Hospital on Swiftwater Road. Whether we can do anything or not up there, I’m not sure.
Are there any other facilities like this around? Has this been tried previously in our region?
There was an aquatic center planned in Newport which didn’t quite work. My thought right in the beginning was that a for-profit business (such as was planned in Newport) would not work. Most of these aquatic centers are non-profit and they have a specific purpose which means they would be able to look for a benefactor, someone who is passionate about aquatics. Once the project gets going, it also opens up funding from foundations like the Michael J. Fox Foundation and other larger funding sources. There are a lot of aquatic therapy and rehabilitation facilities around the country and New England but this model is unique and can be put into rural areas. I don’t think you are going to find anything like it anywhere else.