The Abilene YMCA is set to complete $5.6M renovations

The end is nearly in sight for a two-year, $5.6 million renovation and expansion project at the YMCA of Abilene in Redbud Park.

“Part of that was much-needed maintenance – upgrading air conditioning units and sewers and that kind of practical stuff,” CEO David Hendricks said of the major renovations to the facility built in the mid-1980s. .

“The other one was just meeting the expectations of the public. People expect nicer, newer, brighter installations, and that just made us aware,” he said.

In terms of design aesthetics, this means high ceilings, more windows, a larger lobby, dedicated rooms for cycling and fitness classes, the addition of a family locker room, and updated locker rooms for men and women which include toilets, changing rooms and showers.

Infants through the age of 90 use the facility which includes after-school and summer child care, an aquatic center, indoor gymnasiums, exercise and weight-training equipment, racquetball courts, child care children in the children’s area while parents use the facility and more.

“So just like an old house, you’ll have to remodel it and bring it up to expectations,” Hendricks said.

Youth sports leagues are also offered, including football, basketball, flag football and volleyball.

“The reason we play sports is for values. So we want the health benefits for kids. And we want them to learn sportsmanship and respect,” Hendricks said.

The YMCA opened in Abilene in 1946. In the summer of 2019, the YMCA closed its facility at 3250 State St. to maximize resources. The Texas Leadership Charter Academy has since opened a branch campus in the renovated facilities.

New sewer trenches are seen February 17 at the Abilene YMCA, which is nearing completion of a $5.6 million renovation and expansion project.  The old daycare center is being converted into a wellness center for cardio and weight machines.

Work in phases

Construction of the Redbud Park facility began in April 2020 and updates were approached in phases. Sometimes programs, classes and equipment were moved inside the YMCA like Tetris blocks.

Completed projects include a new exterior and entrance, larger parking lot, expanded lobby, pool party room and a 10,000 square foot daycare wing.

A dedicated cycling room is nearing completion and major work is continuing to convert the former child care space into a fitness center called the Wellness Center. It will house cardio and strength-training machines and will have changing rooms.

Target’s open is late April, Hendricks said.

Part of the exterior upgrades included adding more windows to the wellness center, including along an interior wall that connects to the pool.

“We had a lot of people who didn’t even know we had a pool,” Hendricks said.

During a first phase of construction, one of the three racquetball courts was converted into a cardio zone. A mezzanine and windows were added so members could see the park while running on treadmills.

“It’s kind of a band-aid, to give us a cardio center until we open the new wellness center,” Hendricks said.

But the old cardio area was less appealing in the evening.

“The cardio was in a small room where you were just looking at a door. It had low ceilings and no windows,” Hendricks said.

When the wellness center opens, the equipment will remain in the converted racquetball court for coaches to perform circuit training.

The YMCA has two gymnasiums, but the smaller one temporarily serves as a weight room.

The fitness classes that used to take place in the small gymnasium are now in the new group exercise room.

“We had classes before, but we didn’t have a dedicated space for them, so they used this small gym and deployed a portable PA system,” Hendricks said.

Where the women’s locker was, a bike room has been created. It will feature a projection system, strobe lights and music for an immersive cycling experience. Previously, bikes were moved in and out of a room used for other physical activities.

The facilities allow staff to deliver programs in dedicated spaces, instead of mixing activities, which reduced the time activities could be scheduled, Hendricks said.

“We can just expand everything. We were already doing a lot of that, but with a dedicated group exercise room, a dedicated cycling room, we can expand our offerings, so we can offer more classes,” Hendricks said. .

The new YMCA of Abilene Redbud Park playground, part of a $5.6 million renovation and expansion project.

Changing needs of members, families

Some of the facility updates indicate the YMCA’s goal of meeting community needs, Hendricks said.

“Part of our reasoning behind expanding the hall was to sit down, because we are also a social place. We have a lot of older people who come in for coffee after their workouts. It’s also a social outlet for them too,” Hendricks said.

A third family locker room gives members another option to help their loved ones. The locker includes several private bathrooms with showers and lockable doors.

“If dad is bringing a daughter swimming or if mom is bringing a son, or if we have an older couple one of whom has dementia or something, there’s a place that respects them so we can help with the change” , Hendricks said.

Part of the male and female locker updates was to remove the hot tub in each room. Two hot tubs are now on the pool deck.

Also built near the pool is a room for children’s birthday parties and other celebrations. Previously, the events took place at the daycare.

When the wellness center opens, the small gym will be lined up again for pickleball. It is a growing sport that combines elements of table tennis, tennis and badminton.

“It’s a growing trend, so we’re going to give it a try,” Hendricks said.

New childcare wing

The expansion part of the project involved adding a 10,000 square foot daycare wing, bringing the total footprint of the facility to just under 60,000 square feet.

A separate entrance and check-in area means kids no longer wander around the main lobby. The new arrangement is also more convenient for parents to drop off and pick up their children.

“The licenses love it because we don’t have any interaction with strangers, so it’s really positive for them that we’re a bit isolated here,” Hendricks said of the separate entry.

The center also has five themed classrooms. The arts and music class has a stage. Cooking and nutrition lessons are taught in the kitchen, which has full-size appliances. Principles of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math come together as students create and build projects in the STEAM classroom.

One of five classrooms in the new child care wing that opened in early January at the Abilene YMCA is a kitchen to teach youngsters about cooking and nutrition.

Two multipurpose classrooms will facilitate games, tutoring, homework and other activities.

Youngsters also have access to two outdoor play areas and can use the small gym, which has a direct entrance to the nursery.

AY just for Abilene

Moving services and jackhammering foundations to lay new sewer lines came as COVID-19 decreased footfall at the facility.

“We’re still not up to par with our pre-COVID workforce,” Hendricks said.

But those who have returned “are amazed” at the updates so far, Hendricks said.

Renovations are funded by local donations and grants, indicating that each YMCA is locally run.

David Hendricks, CEO of the YMCA of Abilene, stands next to a table he fashioned from the maple flooring of a racquetball court that was converted into a cardio area as part of the facility's major renovations 'establishment.  The table contains a stack of plans documenting the many changes and expansions at the YMCA over the past two years.

“Every Y is different because we’re all based on community needs,” Hendricks said.

This includes being operated by a local council and funded by local dollars.

“We have a head office, but it’s just a support office. We don’t receive funding from national YMCA dollars or anything like that,” Hendricks said. “So this Y belongs in Abilene, Texas. We’re all completely independent.”

Laura Gutschke is a generalist journalist and food columnist and manages the online content of the Reporter-News. If you enjoy local news, you can support local reporters with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

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