HARDYSTON, NJ – Take one step into the newly renovated Sussex County YMCA and the changes are apparent. It is bright and open, but the two story climbing tower and slide really tell the story, as do the little seating area next to the coffee bar and new ping pong tables.
The story the Y is telling is about family and community and building both. The renovations and additional 7,000 square feet are intended to improve the membership experience, Executive Director Jennifer Gardner said.
The facilities were originally built for “wellness and aquatics, but this will be a game changer,” according to Rick Gorab, President of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges.
The Sussex County Y currently counts 9,400 members. The new facilities are anticipated to help drive that number to 10,000, according to Associate Executive Directory Corey Brown.
Gardner explained the new space is already helping to forge new connections. There is a group of folks that attend an exercise class and “then you see the same group playing games in the new coffee area.” She said it is a group of “people that would not have known each other if not for the class,” and they have bonded in the new space, even “checking up on members of the group who have missed class.”
Renovations made to the existing space were extensive. The fitness area has been updated and expanded by 2,000 square feet. The Wellness Coaching area was also reconfigured. Once segregated, it is now adjacent to the fitness area, making the transition to working on their own easier, according to Gorab.
Twelve weeks of wellness coaching is included with membership, according to Greg Albers Vice President of Marketing and Communications. The “gateway to wellness” pairs member with a trainer. Together they develop a fitness plan with instruction on how to use the weight and cardio machines, stretching and other techniques Brown explained.
“The program is a great confidence builder,” Albers said. “People have goals and need to know how to get there.”
An important part of the wellness coaching is that it is by appointment, “making you accountable” according to Gardner.
“It is important to know how to use the machines correctly,” Gardner said. “The coaches are focused on giving support and instruction to make the members successful. No two people here have the same background and goals.”
The 12 week period is to help “create a habit making a commitment,” Gorab said. The coaching also allows people to meet others with similar goals and experience.
Gardner said, “We know people are more successful when they can be connected.”
“We connect people to people,” Gorab said.
The construction added 7,000 square feet to the facility. The new basketball court is also lined for volleyball and pickleball. Gorab and Gardner talked about the opportunities afforded by the new space, including possible basketball leagues, off season conditioning and “even a canteen,” Gorab joked.
The new spin room is just off the gymnasium. In a room filled with natural light, the spin bikes face a screen that displays videos. Next door to the spin room is a fitness room for classes in a more private setting.
A few finishing touches will be added before the grand opening next week.
Gardner said the members have been “supportive and understanding” during the construction.
On his weekly visits to see the progress, Gorab said “members were saying it was worth the wait.”
“I give accolades to Jen Gardner,” Gorab said. “She did all of this and always with a smile. It takes caring people to hire people who care.”
“It would not have happened without the care and compassion of the staff,” Gardner said. “It was a whole team effort. Communication was important and you have to go with the flow.”
“We are proud to say this $3.9 million project finished on time and on budget,” Gorab said. “It was made possible by the generous donations of individuals organizations and All YMCA. The project did not take any public money or financing. There was no additional debt.”
At the groundbreaking ceremony last the spring, Gorab made an appeal to the crowd to provide additional funds. “They heeded the call and we raised an approximate $1 million since the groundbreaking,” Gorab said.
Some of the money was used to purchase more than 30 acres of property adjacent to the current facilities. It will be used by the summer camp program and possibly a walking trail according to Gardner.
Gorab explained that the “Y is committed to being socially responsible, committed to increasing health and wellness in the community.” In addition to the new facilities and the wellness coaches the Y has several established outreach programs.
They have a program that subsidizes memberships and free memberships for middle school students. There is a Y First physicians’ referral program that provides wellness plans for people who have been injured or ill. The Everyone Can Play program provides special needs children a safe and structured environment to play and learn.
The national LiveStrong at the YMCA initiative teams up with the LiveStrong Foundation to provide wellness programs for people during and after cancer treatment. The program is free to the family that has been affected by cancer. The YMCA offers Diabetes Prevention Program and water safety classes along with Darkness to Light child sexual abuse prevention training.
Gorab, Gardner, Albers and Brown were excited to show off the new facilities. The community is invited to see for themselves at the ribbon cutting event on Saturday, January 13 beginning at 11 a.m. It will be more than just a tour however.
Brown and Albers said the open house will be a Winter Wonderland of activities. Outside will feature an ice carver, food trucks with s’mores and hot chocolate under a tent. Indoors visitors can take advantage of the pool and gym with an open swim pool with demonstration classes. There will be arts and crafts and refreshments.
“We want the community to see what the new facility has to offer,” Gardner said.