Whitehall parks and recreation staffers say they will rely, when the time arrives, on cooperating with the YMCA of Central Ohio to establish programming for the new Community Park YMCA branch at Whitehall Community Park.

An open house Oct. 17 at Whitehall City Hall attracted a considerable number of city and YMCA officials but few residents, who were the intended target of the event.

"We're a little disappointed (with the turnout), but the YMCA has a protocol (for launching programming) and when we get to that point, we will be re-engaging our residents," said Shannon Sorrell, director of Whitehall's parks and recreation department.

The Oct. 17 open house, held immediately prior to the City Council meeting, was scheduled to provide residents with an opportunity to learn about the new YMCA branch at an evening time, presumably more convenient for most, Sorrell said.

The Oct. 10 announcement of the new branch was held at lunchtime at Whitehall Community Park.

The YMCA of Central Ohio will open a new branch at Community Park, 402 N. Hamilton Road, after the city invests about $5.5 million to renovate the existing activities building and construct an open-air gymnasium.

The branch will represent a new model for the YMCA that includes social programming in addition to athletics and recreational activities, Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said.

However, the facility will not have a pool or a basketball court.

Both amenities will be missed by resident Tammy Turner, who attended the open house.

"(If the YMCA) is just a room with exercise equipment in it, there won't be a lot of interest," Turner said.

The budget did not allow for a pool, Sorrell said, but Whitehall residents with YMCA memberships will have access to pools at other YMCA branches.

Meanwhile, the city and YMCA will develop a network of programming both inside and outside the new branch, including a variety of field sports such as indoor soccer and lacrosse, as well as nature-related programming in its outdoor areas, Sorrell said.

But first, the city will begin the process of vetting architectural firms to design the upgrades to the existing facility.

Under optimal circumstances, the Community Park YMCA would open in the second half of 2019, Sorrell said.

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