One year ago today, an accidental fire nearly destroyed the longstanding Wilmington Family YMCA building on Market Street.
Looking back, 2015 was a year of challenges, as the non-profit organization hustled to stay open by accommodating members at satellite locations.
But as they get set to embark on the rebuilding effort, Y officials say it has also been a year filled with rewards, community support key among them.
“Since the fire, friends, partners, neighbors, Y staff and the greater Wilmington community have supported the Wilmington Family YMCA in a manner that allowed us to be a Y without a building,” marketing and communications coordinator Sarah Gibbs said. “The YMCA will be forever grateful to everyone who has helped us continue our mission during this time.”
On a cold weekend last February, a late-night blaze lit up the Y’s half-century-old location at 2710 Market St. The second-story fire, which started in a men’s locker room sauna, was extinguished after several hours. There were no injuries, but the extensive damage forced the YMCA to immediately close its doors.
In July, the Y reopened one of its pools and its gym was opened back up after the installation of a modular locker room so members could have access to the facilities without entering the main building, which remained shut down. That first step was followed by the establishment of an “express” location at a nearby shopping center at the intersection of Market and Kerr Avenue. The short-term facility offers a wellness area, cycling and TRX room, yoga, Pilates and group exercise studios, a café, locker rooms, saunas and a large childcare area.
Then at the close of 2015, a second, four-lane pool at the main location reopened.
With services like after-school programs and fitness classes solidly in place for its members, the Y is now focused on the reconstruction of its home, CEO Dick Jones said. The organization’s board of directors recently approved a conceptual vision for the new building.
But, Jones added, the building project goes beyond restoring brick and mortar. Rather, he said, it is an opportunity to take a big picture approach to the YMCA’s future.
“The design provides more space for youth programming, helping us to play a bigger role in addressing youth violence in our community. As one of the leading providers of aquatics in our community, we are acutely aware of the lack of swimming venues. Our vision includes a new aquatics facility to help address this shortage. And the Y’s commitment to healthy living is demonstrated by more space for wellness and fitness activity for families and individuals of all ages and abilities,” he said.
The YMCA has also launched a capital campaign and will send out requests for proposals this week for a construction manager and architect to begin the planning and pre-construction work.
“The board is united around this vision. A year ago we said the Y is more than just a building, and the incredible growth in Y programming is a testament to this fact,” Jones said. “However, as members, program participants and those in the community agree, we all want to be back home at the Y.”