The Wilmington Family YMCA is weeks away from reopening its pool and gymnasium since a February fire forced officials to close the facility on Market Street.
The YMCA has partially installed a modular locker room near its main facility at 2701 Market St. in preparation to open the six-lane pool and gymnasium to its members in early July, according to Wilmington Family YMCA CEO Dick Jones.
“Those are two important spaces in our community because there are so few spaces like that for families and kids,” Jones said. “In order to do so we have to put in place facility components that we don’t have access to in the [main] building.”
In April, the YMCA’s board of directors approved funding to reopen pool and the gym after a fire caused major damage to the YMCA facility on Feb. 7, according to YMCA spokeswoman Sarah Gibbs. No injuries were reported in the fire, which started in a second-story sauna in the men’s locker room, according to Wilmington Fire Department Battalion Chief Chris Nelson.
The YMCA partnered with a modular building company to manufacture two locker rooms with lockers, sinks, toilets, changing areas and six showers each, Jones said. The buildings were constructed and placed on site. Now, the Y is going through the process of connecting electric, water and sewer. The Y is also constructing a deck and a ramp for the raised building for easy access, as well as covered walkways from the locker rooms to the pool and gym.
The locker rooms will give the YMCA the infrastructure needed to reopen the pool and the gymnasium, Jones said.
“All of those things are happening over the next couple of weeks. All of the contractors that we’re working with–including the county and the city–everyone is working really hard to be supportive of that rapid time frame to get operational as quickly as possible,” Jones said.
Along with the modular locker rooms, the Y has also installed a second modular classroom for children’s programming, Jones said. The summer camps—which are at near-capacity this year at Forest Hills Elementary School—will be able to move back to the main facility, Jones said.
In addition to the pool and gymnasium, the YMCA is in the process of constructing the new Express Y in the Market Street Plaza Shopping Center at the corner of Kerr Avenue and Market Street.
“The YMCA operates memberships and programs 365 days a year,” Jones said. “Since the fire we have been the beneficiary of some wonderful partners within the community…to help support our health and wellness activities, which is the key membership piece of any YMCA.”
Four organizations have partnered with the YMCA including YWCA, Wilmington Athletic Club, O2 Fitness and Second Wind. But since the beginning of the summer, many of those organizations have ramped up their programming.
“They all are ongoing businesses and so when they said we’re happy to help the YMCA, that was a big undertaking, and it was one that we knew and they knew was not going to last forever,” Jones said. “What we have been doing to help with that transition is to create our Express Y.”
The facility, which is currently under construction, will give the YMCA the ability to serve members with their regular health and wellness programs and features, including yoga and Pilates, TRX, cycling studio, cardio and strength equipment, group exercise rooms, locker rooms, restrooms, child care and a Y café. The Express Y is expected to open in mid-July.
YMCA hopes to increase membership post-fire
With the main building still at least 18 months away from being fully operational, the YMCA has seen a downward trend in membership since the fire. Jones said the YMCA has lost about 25 percent of its membership over the last four months, but hopes the opening of the pool and gym– and the addition of the Express Y–will increase membership.
“Once we open the pool, once we open the Express Y, we’re hoping that we’ll see a lot of those members return. Time will tell,” Jones said. “Nothing will be better than to have those faces back in the operation.”
The YMCA is working to re-design the inside of main facility, Jones said.
“We’re working with the board to redesign all of those inside spaces. We have a task force that is working through that process with me. And we hope that, with the help of an architectural design firm that works exclusively with YMCAs, that…we will finalize the design,” Jones said.
The next steps, Jones said, would be to find a local architect and get started on developing the design concepts that the YMCA will then use to begin renovation and construction inside the main facility. The Y expects about six months of design work and at least another year for construction.
“People talk about what the Y is. But it’s not the bricks and mortar they are talking about; it’s the people,” Jones said. “It’s all about people and relationships and that’s what we’re hearing folks miss the most.”