Published November 24. 2012 4:00AM
Westerly - When the Westerly-Pawcatuck branch of the Ocean Community YMCA begins the last phase of its $8 million expansion and renovation next week, it's likely to thrill its 6,000 members.
It's also likely to prompt members of its Mystic and Arcadia (in Wyoming, R.I.) branches to wonder when they, too, will see the same type of improvements.
Earlier this week, YMCA President and CEO Maureen Fitzgerald said that when work on the Westerly project is done early next year, the YMCA's staff and branch boards will turn their attention to the other branches.
She said the YMCA completed a plan to upgrade the Mystic facility five years ago. That work was put on hold while the YMCA concentrated on upgrading its flagship facility in Westerly.
Fitzgerald said YMCA officials will review the Mystic plan and see whether any changes need to be made. The busy Mystic branch has two small locker rooms and three small fitness areas. It also lacks adequate parking.
She said the YMCA will proceed much the way it did with the Westerly project - looking at factors such as demographics and market penetration to determine how much money can be raised for the work.
She said plans call for individual locker rooms for men, women, girls and boys, along with a family locker room, a large wellness area and a children's watch area - all components of the project in Westerly.
To replace the storefront Arcadia branch, Fitzgerald said, YMCA officials are talking with developers about constructing a new facility in Richmond, R.I.
To get a preview of some of what might be coming to them, Mystic and Arcadia branch members need only visit the newly refurbished Westerly branch.
They will enter an expansive new lobby and welcome area with a stone fireplace and leather couches. They will enjoy large locker rooms with same-floor access to the pools, a glassed-in pool viewing area with living room furniture, and an 8,000-square-foot exercise area with rows and rows of new treadmills, bicycles, elliptical machines, Cybex weight machines and free weights. There are eight flat-screen televisions placed around the room and a small, open locker area for people who need to store their gear while working out.
Gone are the cramped locker rooms, the narrow, slippery stairs to the pools, the dim, stuffy weight room and the exercise machines packed together in a former gym.
"We know all our members are going to be so excited to see the new place," said Fitzgerald, as she gave a tour of the facility on Monday while workers hauled in new exercise machines. "Now that the end product is coming to fruition, it's an exciting time for us."
Fitzgerald said that while the new building is just 6,000 square feet larger than the current one, it seems much larger because of the redesign. It is more functional, open and can serve more members. The YMCA expects to increase its membership to 7,000, she said.
The additional space will allow more collaboration with schools and hospitals in areas such as obesity prevention and cardiac rehabilitation.
Phase I of the project began in October 2011. Before that, the parking lot across High Street was rebuilt and expanded by 40 spaces.
So far, the YMCA's capital campaign has raised $4 million toward the project. Money raised has been increased to about $5 million from the sale of other YMCA property.
After Phase I is completed, crews will turn their attention to Phase II, which calls for the construction of two wellness studios for yoga, Pilates, TRX and other classes. There will be a new spinning room with 30 bikes, a youth center, administrative offices, and a community room with a small kitchen that can host meetings. These facilities will be where the current locker rooms and weight room are.
The outside of the new building boasts a large new entrance with a gray-shingled exterior with white trim. Inside, the men's and women's locker rooms are long and spacious and include saunas. There are also boys' and girls' locker rooms, which all exit into a common "wet corridor" that leads to the two pools. There is also access to the rest of the building.
A long hallway with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook High Street leads to the large pool viewing area. Along the way are alcoves with high tables and chairs. The entire building has wireless Internet.
The renovations were designed by Annino Inc. and Triangle D. The general contractor for the project is A/Z Corp.
One of the priorities was keeping the facility open during construction. Walkways and a new entrance were built, colored arrows guided members through the building, and equipment and classes were relocated.
Fitzgerald said keeping the facility open was important because the YMCA is such a valuable part of the community and plays an important part in the health and life of its members.
She commended Vice President of Operations Tim Babcock and his staff and A/Z for their work in keeping the building up and running. Some programs and offices were moved off-site while front desk staff worked out of a tiny area off the gym.