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Gymkhana Owner Plans Ahead To New $100,000 Building Here

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Gymkhana Owner Plans Ahead To New $100,000 Building Here

By Jack Lewis

A seven-year personal fight to help local youths develop athletic talents today could net a new, $100,000 recreational facility for the community and for a local businessman - or it could net him failure and “smashup” of a long-time dream.

“We’ve either got to go big or get out of business,” Don T. Botsford, owner of Gymkhana of 415 S. Maple Rd., declared.

Local youths since 1956 have worked out on such gymnastics facilities at Gymkhana as the trampoline and they’ve done weight-lifting to build up their bodies. A number of those youths have gained national attention for their trampolining skills developed under Botsford’s direction.

He has helped under-privileged youths in training their bodies over the years at a fraction of the true cost to him, Botsford said.

Profit-wise, time has not been kind to Botsford. His income in 1959 from Gymkhana was $1,200. It fell to $268 in 1960. Then in 1961 a $246 loss was incurred. The loss for this year grew to $1,304.

Still, Botsford remained firm in his 17-year “dream” of an athletic-type facility that develops strong, skilled bodies in all areas of gymnastics. So, he took up part-time teaching and house painting to earn sufficient funds to support his family - jobs he is still doing today while he operates Gymkhana and plans a new Ann Arbor Gymkhana.

Design work is under way by local Architect Donald D. Mac-Mullan.

The new Gymkhana—if it is built—would include a 75 x 25-foot indoor swimming pool.

An enclosed ice skating rink for use nine months of each year would be erected in the future, Botsford said. To be built immediately would be a 30-foot-square weight training room, a 40x56-foot gymnastic room, a sauna (dry heat room for cleansing the skin through perspiration), and a lounge for relaxation, TV watching and sale of health foods. There would also be a meeting room for public use.

Botsford said he has a "gentlemen’s agreement” with the owner of a 1 1/3 - acre site on Rosewood, just east of S. Industrial Highway, to purchase the site for the new Gymkhana. It would be just east of the Colonial Lanes bowling alley.

Today, there’s just one “if”' thwarting construction of the new Gymkhana — sale of the old Gymkhana at 415 S. Maple for $38,000. “When we sell it, the new Gymkhana will be under way within about a month,” Botsford said.

He takes the position the new Gymkhana would be a popular recreational facility because of the many alternative kinds of body-building activities which would be available.

Full privileges of the new Gymkhana would be granted to the public for a one-day fee of $1.50. There is a annual rate structure for adults and children, for special instruction and for whole families. A lifetime family membership would be $250.

The old Gymkhana at 415 S. Maple is a 33 x 66-foot structure, just six years old, with a 16-foot-high ceiling—enough height to permit the facility to be remade into two floors for offices.

Botsford has been asked to lease the old Gymkhana by a sign-painting shop, drafting studio and scientific firm that makes instruments. But he needs the equity he has in the $38,000 building to permit him to erect the new one.

He said he would give underprivileged children two hours’ use of the new facility for 50 cents, a long-time offering in effect at the old Gymkhana.

Why should a businessman offer such a bargain?

“It’s hard for me to tell you,” Botsford said. “When the kids come out for lessons, some of them make the mistake of calling me daddy. They crawl all over me; they’re just starved for affection.

“Personally, it’s a real thrill to help kids—and we’ve helped a lot of them who are now going to college.”

ENVISIONED NEW GYMKHANA: This is a local architect’s concept of a new Ann Arbor Gymkhana planned to be built at the south side of the city at a cost of about $100,000. It would have an indoor swimming pool, sauna, weight-training room, gymnastic room, lounge, meeting room and other facilities. An enclosed ice skating rink for use nine months of the year would be built later. Construction of the new facility for the public depends on the sale of the old Gymkhana at 415 S. Maple Rd., Don T. BotSford, owner, said today in making the announcement of plans.