No-one could have predicted the loss of the former YMCA at 2710 Market Street to a fire in February 2016; yet, that tragedy gave the YMCA a chance to dream up a new vision. Two years in the making, that vision was partly revealed recently at a vision tour which gave Y members and the community a chance to experience the potential reality of that dream.
Like all dreams, some parts are hard to believe and as a long-time member of the Y, I walked through the construction site in a state of disbelief. The first thing that stood out was the new entrance which, if you’re facing the old entrance, you will see is now to the left of the gym. Not only do you walk into a light, open space with high ceilings, but with this being a new addition—the only addition to the original footprint—it includes two spacious child care areas for infants and children up to the age of 12.
The younger children (age five and under) will have little nooks cut out of decorative trees where they can play or hang out. The older children will have a climbing wall and slide built into the new room which features a wall of windows to brighten up this fun space.
Beyond the wide, entrance hallway is the lobby and to the left, are two racquetball courts. Further on, is the elevator, offices and a staircase which leads to the second floor. To the right, is the gym and then an open space that will include lounge seating for socializing and for members to enjoy refreshments from the café. Windows and a new doorway to the gym are to the right of the seating area and the locker rooms are on the left side where they used to be. The gym now has more windows at one of the outer corners allowing a welcome influx of light. The new design also incorporates a new concept in place of the old free weights room—a family changing and shower area that will have individual wet and dry cubicles for parents and children to shower and change.
All the locker rooms connect to the new family pool which was still off limits during the tour but is in the process of being filled, so expect to see it open soon. This pool, with splash pad features, will be an exciting upgrade to the old four-lane pool and will complement the existing six-lane pool.
Having the two indoor pools is a huge asset to the Y, as are the extensive facilities for after-school care and youth camps. Beyond the café, is the old hallway that leads down to the old entrance. This is where I felt a little perplexed because the hallway seemed narrower than I recalled until I was reminded that the width of this hallway was dictated by the former 1960s structure. Then, I recollected the tight squeeze I experienced a few years ago while navigating the hallway with a double stroller bringing my twins to the child care. It was especially challenging if I encountered another stroller or a wheelchair on that stretch, but this will no longer be a problem with the new, wider entranceway and new child care rooms on the other side of the building.
The old hallway and adjacent rooms will now have another purpose: this whole wing has been dedicated to after-school care and youth educational programs. I was excited to see the integration of a learning kitchen for nutrition programs. Learning how to make healthy food choices is such an important part of embracing a healthy lifestyle and goes hand-in-hand with exercise and healthy living. These multi-functional, child-centered rooms are adjacent to the new playground that will be built to the right side of the old entrance when facing the building. Another awesome feature will be a dedicated traffic circle for child drop-off and pick-up at this entrance.
But, that’s not all…the upper floor has been totally redesigned. I recalled a teen zone at one end of the upper level and a small yoga studio in the middle. I also knew the men’s locker rooms were upstairs—my husband had told me about the sauna, steam room, massage suite, whirlpools and nap rooms but they were all behind closed doors for women…a throwback from the days when the YMCA was a male-orientated organization. This area was totally destroyed by the fire caused by an electrical fault in the men’s sauna.
Having not seen the layout of the former upper level in its entirety, I was totally taken aback—the second floor is huge!!! The redesign incorporates the large area to the front of the building as a cardio zone with a TRX wall and windows overlooking the gym. To the rear of the building, is another wellness studio and three large exercise rooms and two smaller studios, one of which will be a Spin studio. The large rooms will house the Queenax wall, small group training, a yoga studio and large-group exercise classes.
It’s incredible to think that this space was always there but was not being used efficiently. The future purpose of this upper floor will be an awesome upgrade to an already awesome YMCA. The whole vision tour was inspiring and I could feel the buzz of excitement as people explored. Like many others, I added my mark and signed the floor near the old childcare room. I wrote, “The Y has made room for families to grow—The Wirszyla Family.”
My family has been fortunate to have grown up with the Y throughout the 13 years we have lived in Wilmington. I hope that many other families can benefit from this supportive community, the expertise of the Y staff and from the facilities the new building will provide for many years to come.