The sharp cracks of dueling drums aren't the first sounds one would expect to hear emanating from a YMCA, but they are music to the ears of Tony Collins, president and CEO of the YMCA of Central Ohio.
The Whitehall Community Park YMCA, 402 N. Hamilton Road, officially opened Nov. 22, 13 months after a ceremonial groundbreaking for the $6.5 million facility.
"When we see teenagers (with big smiles), we know we have made a connection," Collins said.
While children were playing gaga ball -- a modified version of dodge ball played inside a ring -- two Whitehall-Yearling High School student-athletes were showing off some different moves with the use of drumsticks.
"This is just awesome," said Josiah Mobley, 17, a junior at Whitehall-Yearling who plays basketball for the Rams.
Mobley and Charles Miller, 18, a senior who plays basketball, football and track, were using the "teen hub" at the Community Park YMCA to riff together on a drum set.
"I've never been to a YMCA with instruments. This is way better (than video-game drums)," said Mobley, who called his drumming a hobby.
The Whitehall Community Park YMCA is the 14th branch of the YMCA of Central Ohio in four counties.
Until the 15th YMCA opens in Reynoldsburg early next year, or an existing YMCA is remodeled, the Community Park YMCA is the only facility with a teen hub, Collins said.
The hub includes a podcast studio and a robotics lab in addition to musical instruments provided by donors.
The 25,600-square-foot YMCA is more than twice the size of the original 10,500-square-foot activity building that was constructed in 1962 at Whitehall Community Park.
The YMCA added on to the original building at the park, once a private park for employees of Rockwell International and its forerunner, North American Aviation; upon its closure in 1988, Rockwell donated the park to Whitehall.
Several employees of the firms that manufactured airplanes and aviation components were on hand at the YMCA's opening.
Whitehall funded the $6.5 million construction cost and provided the site, but the YMCA of Central Ohio furnished the building and will fund its operating costs, including staffing, said Tina Badurina, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the YMCA of Central Ohio.
The new YMCA includes a 4,000-square-foot indoor artificial-turf field, a "teaching kitchen" in which children and families can enroll in cooking classes and learn about nutrition, a multipurpose room to read and study, and a wellness center with fitness equipment.
It is designed in a manner that maximizes natural light, and from almost any viewpoint, patrons can see into Whitehall Community Park, Badurina said.
"This is just the beginning," said Rhonda Ludwig, regional vice president of the YMCA of Central Ohio.
The YMCA will partner with Whitehall City Schools for a variety of after-school programming, Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said.
"I am proud of the after-school programming for (students), which will support educational and appropriate social interaction," Maggard said.
During the three-day opening weekend, the Community Park YMCA sold 85 "units" of memberships, said Kim Jordan, chief operating officer for the YMCA of Central Ohio.
Units are household memberships of one or more people, Jordan said.
Whitehall parks and recreation director Shannon Sorrell used one word to describe the facility on its opening: "Wow."
"It's more than a YMCA," she added. "It is a place for (kids) to call their own."