YMCA opens with new fitness center, gymnasiumMarch 12, 2021
By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
FERDINAND — Executive Director Mike Steffe walked through the new fitness room at the Tri-County YMCA Thursday afternoon, greeting members during the first day the new expansion was open to the public.
A young man passed him on his way to the new weights area. “It looks nice in here,” he said to Steffe.
A few minutes later, a man named Tom entered the room, a little confused by all the new equipment. Steffe approached him and demonstrated how to use a few of the machines before Tom thanked him and began his workout.
On the other side of the room, a woman who, if Steffe recalled correctly, is training for a marathon, ran on a treadmill next to another woman walking at a steady, leisurely pace.
“It’s fun to see so many different people,” he said. “We’ve got Tom, he’s 76, and we’ve got this gentleman over here, he’s 25, and we’ve got different age groups coming in from school ... You have some training for marathons and some that are just walking to improve their quality of life.”
The new fitness center is part of a $2.3 million addition that makes the entire YMCA about 50% larger. The groundbreaking was less than a year ago, in June 2020, but talks of the expansion had been in the works for years.
Currently, there are about 2,400 members enrolled, Steffe said. After several complaints of the old facility being too cramped, a community needs assessment conducted by the board of directors in 2017 put the expansion in motion.
It was funded by a capital campaign called “Reimagine your Y.” Ultimately, around 120 donors raised the money, donating anywhere from $20 to $750,000 each.
“Raising money is very difficult but very rewarding, too, if you have a good cause that people can get behind,” Steffe said.
The addition, which was added to the north side of the building, houses the new fitness center, which is double the size of the old one and open 24/7, and a multipurpose gym area where staff will be able to host programs.
Now that the addition is nearly complete besides adding in a few more machines, the next step will be to remodel the old workout room that will now serve as a group exercise room with classes led by instructors.
Steffe said he and the staff still have plenty more to do and learn but that he’s excited for everyone to have more room for activities, especially the kids that visit through camps or after-school programs.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for March 29 and an official grand opening will take place later this year.
Steffe said he hopes the extra space will encourage more people to visit, including those who may have felt hesitant about being in a crowded public space due to COVID-19. Ideally, he thinks members will feel safer being more spread out, he said.
“It’s kind of like dominoes,” he said. “More room in here gives more room for group exercise, which gives more room for the kids, which gives more room for the boxers. It all kind of ties together.”
As Steffe wandered through the building around noon on that first day, only a few members ambled around the fitness center, and all of the other gyms sat unused. But come later in the evening, he knew things would start to pick up and feel more like the community that it is.
“We’re more than just a gym,” he said. “It’s a very important part of the community, especially in our area where there’s not a lot of them.”
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