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

"We are responding to what our residents said they wanted," Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said.

Last year, the city and the YMCA collaborated on a survey of residents about desired recreational opportunities and programming.

The new YMCA branch -- dubbed the Community park YMCA -- will be "a first of its kind" and represents a new model that includes social programming in addition to athletics and recreational activities, Maggard said.

"The YMCA is working toward getting (closer) to its mission statement of lifting up communities and improving quality of life," she said.

Whitehall and YMCA officials publicly announced the partnership at noon Oct. 10 at Community Park.

Maggard joined Stephen Ives, president and CEO of the YMCA of Central Ohio, and Whitehall Parks and Recreation Director Shannon Sorrell for the announcement.

In addition to the athletics programming typically associated with a YMCA branch, Whitehall's branch is expected to include classes based on science, math and engineering, along with recreational classes such as cooking.

"It will be more than a regular Y -- it will be a model with social programming meant to increase the quality of life for our residents of all ages," Maggard said.

There is no timeline to complete the remodel of the activities building, but once it's finished, the city and the YMCA will enter into a lease agreement, Maggard said.

The YMCA will lease the activities building, will provide programming and staff and will be responsible for the maintenance of the facility, she said.

Whitehall's staff will focus on parks and nature programming at the rest of Community Park and the city's other parks, Maggard said.

Sorrell said under optimal conditions, the Y would open in the second half of 2019.

Whitehall City School District Superintendent Brian Hamler said the partnership is an "unbelievable opportunity" for the community and the schools.

"Mayor Maggard hit a home run," said Hamler, adding he looks forward to the options the YMCA will offer students.

"Anything that exposes our students to more opportunity to explore career paths, from our perspective, is great. We are super-excited."

Nancy Stickel, a 40-year resident of Whitehall, said she's excited about the new development.

"This is great; we needed something like this for a long time. (Whitehall Community Park) is so underused," Stickel said.

"It will be perfect for my 5-year-old granddaughter."

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo