YMCA Branches Out To New Part Of Town

By Vicky Janowski, posted Mar 10, 2017
The grand opening of a YMCA branch Saturday marks the local organization’s expanded footprint even as it continues to raise funds to rebuild its main facility on Market Street.
The location for the Midtown Y at Temple Baptist Activity Center, 709 George Anderson Drive, is in an area of Wilmington the group has long looked at moving into, said Dick Jones, president and CEO of the YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina.
Fundraising continues for the YMCA’s effort to rebuild its main facility at 2710 Market St. The nonprofit’s building there was badly damaged in a fire in 2015, which prompted the group to open an Express Y and move its fitness activities to a location at Market Plaza at Market Street and South Kerr Avenue.
So far for the $9 million renovation project, the YMCA has $3 million from insurance money and another $4.1 million in funds raised from a capital campaign, Jones said. That capital campaign was bolstered by a major $2 million gift in December from Oaz Nir.
That leaves about $2 million left to raise for the headquarters facility, which will be renamed the Nir Family YMCA when it reopens.
Meanwhile, the organization is not holding up its plans to branch out.
In 2010, the local YMCA did a market study looking at five different locations across New Hanover County for potential expansion. The area where the new branch facility is now open – near the intersection of South 17 Street and Independence Boulevard – ranked high.
“That location was one of the top locations for us to think about providing programs. It’s been seven or eight years since it’s been on our radar screen,” Jones said.
The YMCA had operated a child-care program at the Temple Baptist Activity Center for the past three years so it already had a presence at the 10-acre site as a tenant.
Jones said the church approached the YMCA in the fall to see if the organization would be interested in taking over maintenance of the facility and maintaining programming there for users, which still includes Temple Baptist Church as well as a couple of other churches that lease the space during the week for youth programs.
The YMCA agreed and entered into a long-term lease with the church. Officials at the beginning of this year began the work of converting the activity center more into a gym facility. They painted, added electrical and moved in exercise equipment at the center, which already had outdoor playing fields that the YMCA will utilize.
Besides cardio and weight rooms, branch activities include group exercise classes, pickle ball, basketball, child care, youth and adult basketball, soccer and lacrosse. 
The Midtown Y branch is just one area the group wants to expand to geographically. Jones said plans are still in place to eventually build a facility at Blake Farm, a master planned community in the works in Pender County.
Even the group’s recent change of its operating name reflects a growing regional approach. In October, it switched its legal name from Wilmington Family YMCA to YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina.
“We really are serving a much greater population than just the Wilmington area,” Jones said.
Activities for Saturday’s grand opening event, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., include tours, contests, kids activities and health screenings.
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