A lot of fitness is about improving cardio, reducing weight, and maybe trimming a little off the waist.
In the wake of monumental renovations completed recently, the Chapel Hill / Carrboro YMCA has made moves to reduce wait – for exercise space or equipment – and trim a little of their waste, by better utilizing existing space.
“We essentially doubled our wellness space,” YMCA Regional Communications Director Greg Lee said. “For our Y to serve a community the size of Chapel Hill, we had really been struggling in terms of equipment and also in terms of space for wellness classes.”
Member Caitlin Willen said she enjoyed seeing the new areas open up for use.
“It was cool,” she said. “I’ve been a member since the beginning of this year. While this all was being renovated, I just worked out downstairs.”
Chapel Hill/Carrboro YMCA Executive Director Kim Grooms said, “Everything is in its place after this first phase of renovations, and the transformation has just been incredible. We missed the (New Year’s) resolution crowd that typically comes in early January, but people that are coming in now are just saying ‘Wow.’
“We had to maximize the space that we had by relocating programs like Boomerang,” Grooms added, “But we have a great place; we’re in a great location in Chapel Hill. This allowed us to do more with what we have.”
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA facility at 980 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. is open seven days a week, offering members the use of a full-size gymnasium with an elevated running track, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, a 25-yard indoor pool, whirlpool, steam room, sauna, a pair of racquetball courts, and outdoor recreation facilities. The building boasts spacious adult locker rooms as well as family changing rooms.
With a managed service agreement with the YMCA of the Triangle in place since 2012, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA is comprised of the original Chapel Hill facility, a branch at 964 East Street in Pittsboro, and the newest branch location on Old Barn Lane in Chapel Hill’s Meadowmont community. The CHC-YMCA’s focus is on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.
The renovations that began last year promised a “bright, new lobby space as well as an expanded wellness area with more equipment for members.”
“Basically, we have an old facility that we haven’t given much love to over the years,” Grooms explained in December. “Our members were wanting a better, newer, fresher space. We needed additional cardio space, and (we’ve doubled) our exercise space by renovating our upstairs area.”
The renovations provide resources promised by a previous plan that would have prompted the controversial removal of racquetball space.
“This is a better plan,” Grooms said. “We’re glad we took the time to put together a task force and really evaluate what the long term needs of the YMCA are. This is a (better) long-term solution.”
The dramatic changes are noticeable immediately upon entering the CHC-YMCA, where an open floor plan seamlessly incorporates an inviting reception area and a common space, including a coffee lounge waiting/social area.
“We want to provide space for people to work out and be physically healthy of course,” Lee said, “but one of the things that separates the YMCA from other health clubs – who, by the way, also do a great job serving the community – is that sense of community.
“We want the Y to be everybody’s third (meeting) space,” Lee added. “People have their homes, they have maybe their churches, and we also want the Y to be another place where people come to see and be with people. With a space like that (coffee lounge), it just naturally happens.
“It’s a much more inviting and comfortable space for people to spend time together beyond a class or time on a treadmill. But it’s also a great space for our staff to meet and get to know our members.”
Lee said extra equipment and workout space will better meet the needs of members.
“We have the same number of spin cycles, but they’re in a different (dedicated) space,” he explained. “Having added this second small studio, we can also run simultaneous classes – maybe a yoga class going on next door to a spin class. We also added six treadmills, four more ellipticals, three new bikes, and there’s more coming later this year.”
To make room for the additional main floor fitness spaces, administrative offices have been moved downstairs to the room where project Boomerang use to be.
“We took the old Boomerang space and turned it into an office concept” Grooms said. “There are six staff that are down there in that area, and I have an office in one of the conference room spaces. Boomerang has moved over to our Meadowmont location in Chapel Hill, and that facility has worked well for them.”
Lee insisted that staff will remain visible and engaged, however.
“When I come in, I may go downstairs and work or I may get my laptop and go upstairs to work in the lobby near the coffee station,” he said. “None of us would be working at the Y if we didn’t love being around people.”
Other changes include the migration of youth spaces for after-school and summer-camp activities.
“Now we’ve also redesigned traffic patterns so youths have their space and adults have their space,” Lee said. “We’ve worked real hard to see that groups like this aren’t walking all over each other.”
Perhaps the change that has been the biggest hit with Y members is the new reception area’s open and airy feel.
“We’ve taken advantage of an open floor plan with windows to the outside, so it’s bright and modern,” Grooms said. “Members have really been impressed.
“One member came up the other day and said, ‘I walked in here and didn’t think I was in the Y; I thought I was in a fancy hotel.’”
“It’s just been great,” said Martha Aldridge, who chairs the CHC-YMCA Board of Advisors. “The members really seem excited, and it’s really re-engaged some folks. Overall, it’s been very positive.”
Grooms said some changes were intentionally avoided. “Members often come and ask, ‘Have you thought about doing this or that too?’ But there’s been great feedback telling us, ‘Wow, this is great’ and ‘This was long overdue.’ It’s been a good mix.”
Grooms said future plans include updating equipment and making some facility improvements.
“We’ve already made some changes,” said in December, “but we still have a long way to go.”
For now, Grooms and members are enjoying the “wait loss.”
“We’re in the space,” Grooms said, “we’re loving the space, and it’s just been amazing.”