City leaders, residents sing year-old Y's praises
Delaware's YMCA, opened last November, is third-largest in central Ohio
Jan Larson works out on a stationary cycle Thursday, Nov. 29, at the Delaware Community Center YMCA, 1121 S. Houk Road. In its first year, the YMCA has attracted 8,000 members. Buy This Photo
Julie Weller and her family are familiar faces at the Delaware Community Center YMCA.
Weller and her husband stop in frequently to use the treadmills and weights, and their three children -- all members of the YMCA swim team -- usually can be found in the pool.
"We love it," Weller said. "It's not only a place to go in and work out and get healthy, but it's becoming a meeting place for the city.
"When you go in, you don't see just one person you know -- you see whole families."
It's been just over one year since the Delaware YMCA first opened its doors in November 2011, and local officials say it has already changed the face of the community.
"It probably would not be a stretch to say we are a healthier city today than we were a year ago because of the programming the Y has been able to bring to our citizens, and the opportunities that are now offered at the facility," said Delaware city spokesman Lee Yoakum.
The facility at 1121 S. Houk Road includes a gym with weights and cardiovascular machines, two indoor pools, basketball courts, an elevated running track, a climbing wall, aerobic classrooms, a hot tub and sauna, a child watch area and more.
It offers a wide range of programming, including fitness classes, sports leagues for children and adults, and even a Leaders Club for teens that promotes community involvement through volunteering.
In its first year, the facility exceeded expectations, drawing about 8,000 members and thousands of participants for its sports leagues. It's now the third-largest YMCA branch in the Central Ohio district.
Its popularity may not be a surprise to everyone. Residents have been clamoring for a recreation center in Delaware for nearly 14 years.
In 1998, Weller led a volunteer group called Citizens for Indoor Recreation, which banded together to promote the cause.
"There was a huge need for indoor recreation space," she said.
"The city was growing and it was becoming more apparent all the time, especially since we're in a climate where it gets very cold in the winter. There was nowhere to exercise."
But it wasn't until Delaware voters approved a 0.15 percent income tax increase in 2008 that the project finally got the green light.
Paul Weber, director of city recreation services, said the facility is a hit because it meets the needs of every member of the family.
"Adults can come in and take on their wellness challenges, and the kids can come in and they have a place to play and be kids," he said.
For city officials, the YMCA has become a close partner. In 2011, the organization took control of the city's internal parks and recreation department, a move many hoped would save money and expand programming.
The experiment has been a success. Yoakum said the partnership will save the city $150,000 to $200,000 per year.
"We're able to save quite a lot, and clearly the amount of programming is greater than it was before," he said. "The advantages really can't be overstated."
Weber said the facility is gearing up to offer more targeted programs in 2013, including programs that make it more convenient for working residents to exercise before and after work, plus a new program to get residents who may have gotten off track with their fitness regime back in the swing of things with guided sports and exercise classes.
"We want to focus on people that have health and fitness goals and help them achieve those goals," he said. "We think that's how we can be a real asset to the community."