PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – A new community collaboration is now expanding access to health and fitness options in Central Illinois.

On Dec. 31, a joint operations agreement between the Peoria Park District and OSF Healthcare Saint Francis will come to an end.

Friday, the two organizations and the Greater Peoria Family YMCA announced a new expanded collaboration.

“We’re stronger together and that really means we have to be creative, and we have to be committed to collaboration,” said Andy Thornton, president/CEO of Greater Peoria Family YMCA.

“We have a lot of shared goals for how we want to provide access and vibrancy in the community, so this was a natural fit,” said Emily Cahill, Peoria Park District executive director.

Beginning Jan. 1, members of the Peoria RiverPlex and Peoria YMCA will have unlimited access to both facilities, at the same or lower cost.

“We actually had one of our staff members say I come downtown during the week, I come out here right after work and exercise, but on the weekends that’s kind of a pain right? So we looked at ok, I live close to the Y and I can exercise there on the weekends and it works vice versa,” Cahill said.

OSF Saint Francis will also continue to use the RiverPlex for rehab.

“We are committed to this building’s future and look forward to remaining an active user of the facility to meet the needs of those we’ve been called to serve,” said Robert Anderson, president of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

For leadership at the YMCA, the partnership also means a returned presence to downtown Peoria.

“This gives us an opportunity to explore that and to find our way back into the downtown community and provide services in a way that used to and really need to,” Thornton said.

Thornton added that the biggest beneficiaries of the collaboration will be those living in the area.

“We want to make our community stronger and by working together we can do that, and achieve that. When the community wins, we all win,” Thornton said.

New membership for the collaborative effort will be available Nov. 26.