Nearly a year past the fire, Wilmington Family YMCA anticipates a bright new year is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

A divers group of people work out in the equipment room at the Express Y. The addition of the facility this year has resulted in membership increases. Photo by Christina Haley.
The addition of the Express Y this year has added a much needed space for equipment and YMCA programs and resulted in increased membership. Photo by Christina Haley.

Nearly a year after a fire shut down regular operations, the Wilmington Family YMCA has reopened its second pool at the main gym on Market Street.

Through support from the community, time, renovations and construction of the Express Y, The Wilmington Y’s CEO Dick Jones said the YMCA is now able to provide almost all its original services to its members. The result has been a steady membership increase as the Y begins making headway on plans to fully reopen its Market Street location.

The four-lane pool reopened at the Wilmington Family YMCA’s main building at 2710 Market St. on Tuesday, Dec. 7 and is the second pool to reopen this year, according to Jones. But much of the main building remains closed after the February fire caused major damage to the facility.

On the morning of Feb. 7, the Wilmington Fire Department responded to a second-story fire at the Market Street, which began in the sauna of the men’s locker room. Crews battled the accidental fire through the night. No injuries were reported.

“If you think back on 2015, obviously it’s been a very difficult year for the Y, but the support and encouragement from the community, from friends of the Y, those people who sponsor our events, from the people who donate to us each year, members…every single group of individuals have said, ‘How can we help?’ And that’s been a very rich blessing,” Jones said.

Membership had been at an all-time high the month before the fire, then dropped about 35 percent after the fire shut down the main facility. As the Y brings back elements, people are returning to the gym and pools.

“Membership is coming back…on average we’re seeing about 4 to 5 people join a day…since the grand opening [at the Express Y] every month has been positive,” Jones said.

The recent reopening of the four-lane pool is just one more step in restoring the Y’s main facility, Jones said. The YMCA has also fully restored its six-lane pool and gymnasium, which opened in July for members to use.

“With the reopening of our second pool, we are able to provide the community with more water aerobics, more lap swimming, more swim lessons and more aquatic space for programming,” Jones said.

In September, the Wilmington Family YMCA also opened the Express Y at the Market Street Plaza Shopping Center located at the corner of Kerr Avenue and Market Street. The construction of the Express Y is intended for members to use while the YMCA’s main building is closed, Jones said.

“With the exception of our hand ball and racquetball courts, every program space, every membership space, is in operation — not under one roof — but it’s operational and open to our membership,” Jones said.

Construction on the remaining areas of the YMCA’s main Market Street building have yet to begin, but Jones said plans are in the works for a more up-to-date facility than the original, which was built in the mid-1960s.

“We don’t want to put it back the way it was…and today’s design standards are very different from what they were in the mid-1960s,” Jones said, adding the Express Y is a good example of the current YMCA design standards.

The Wilmington Family YMCA opened it's 4-lane pool this month.
The Wilmington Family YMCA opened its four-lane pool this month.

Since the fire, the YMCA has settled with its insurance company on the building for $2.8 million, Jones said. The money will help rebuild the main facility, but as the new conceptual design for the Y begins to unfold, the cost of reconstruction will not be known until bids are in place.

“We have been working with some architects that have been working with YMCA’s all over the country to put together conceptual plans on what makes sense, what we can do on our site. As those plans are finalized we will roll those out into the community and to members,” Jones said.

The Y expects to begin talking to local architects and builders about their conceptual plan in the near future, with the proposed designed released by February. From there, the design process could take four to five months.

Overall, the year 2016 is looking to be a bright future ahead for the Wilmington Family YMCA, Jones said. Not only has membership increased since the fire, but Jones said the community should stay tuned for more announcements in the new year.

“We have a lot of effort on the board and staff that are working toward reopening 2710 Market Street. And the picture is getting clear and it certainly is brighter,” Jones said.

The CEO said there’s still some catching up to do but the Y is “optimistic” that January 2016 is going to be a big month. For more information about Y membership, programs, services and events visit the Wilmington Family YMCA website. To get a look at the Y’s facilities, click on the slideshow below.