It has rooms with a view. In fact, from most places in the new Ches Penney Family Y, a person can glance to the south and catch a spectacular view of Signal Hill or the Confederation Building.
“This wall of glass here, which overlooks the city and out through The Narrows, is my absolute favourite part of the building,” says Jason Brown.
The CEO of the Northeast Avalon YM-YWCA is standing in the conditioning centre, future home to fitness buffs and the exercise equipment they’ll use.
But while the view is breathtaking, Brown and the numerous others involved are confident the public will also be blown away by what’s inside the $15.4-million facility on 4.5 acres acquired from Pippy Park. (The City of St. John’s acquired the land and deeded it to the Y.)
To show off the building at the corner of Ridge Road and Higgins Line, Brown recently took The Telegram on a tour.
Besides the conditioning centre, it features a fitness studio, a walking track, a gymnasium, multi-use courts and an aquatics centre that includes a main pool, play pool and whirlpool.
Brown notes the pools will result in new programming such as aquafit, swimming lessons and lifeguard training.
People swimming laps, doing inclined bench presses or some other exercise will have a choice of change rooms, depending on their membership level. The building offers general dressing rooms and a place for families to get ready, as well
as a “plus” room where adult members who pay a little extra can also avail of a sauna and lounge area.
The new Y will offer more than fitness-related activities.
It’ll house multi-purpose rooms, a youth employment centre, a café, and a 60-space childcare centre that, according to Brown, will include one of the region’s only infant care rooms.
Another interesting feature of the building is its geo-thermal heating.
Twenty wells, each at a depth of 500 feet, will help heat and cool the building. The system also allows air to be circulated when an area of the building is dry or moist.
“It kind of brings in an average temperature,” notes Craig Rowe, volunteer chairman of the project and a former board chairman.
The geo-thermal setup was funded in part by a provincial green fund. Rowe notes the system will help reduce operating costs once it is paid off.
The tentative ribbon-cutting for the Ches Penney Family Y is June 30, with open houses scheduled to follow from July 1-3. The doors are expected to open on the fourth.
Brown expects all facilities will be ready, except the aquatics centre. That should be open in July.
To prepare for its move into the new building, the Y’s current home on New Cove Road will close at May’s end.
It’s anticipated between 80 and 90 per cent of that location’s 1,700 members will relocate to the new Y.
The expectation is membership will then double over the first few months.
Brown says fees will increase at the new facility, but notes the value will be greater.
He points out a percentage of members receive funding to participate in Y programs and he expects their numbers will increase as overall membership does.
Over 12,000 people currently take part in the Y’s outreach programs — childcare, employment and youth enterprise — across the province.
The more successful the new facility is, the more capital the organization will have to expand those offerings.
“By increasing our membership here and getting more people involved in this location, it increases our capacity to open new childcare centres, to some day develop our children’s camp on Tor’s Cove Pond ... and to continue to increase our outreach into other communities,” Brown says.
Ground was broken on the site in June 2009 and construction started the following month.
As it has been built, a massive fundraising initiative has taken place.
The three levels of government have come onside with a total $4.94 million, and the Y’s Strong Families Campaign has generated $3.3 million.
The remaining portion of the $15.4 million will come from the sale of the building on New Cove Road, investments and financing.
Brown says the strong families campaign is down to the last few hundred thousand of a $3.5-million goal.
“It’s a very successful campaign and we’re pleased with the level of community support,” he says.
Rowe points out 10 per cent has come from the Y’s inner family — its members, volunteers, supporters, staff, and board members.
The new Y was designed by Richard Symonds of Sheppard Case Architects in St. John’s.
He wanted it to have contemporary design, fit into the park context, utilize the natural light and capitalize on the view.
To achieve those things, he incorporated natural materials and lots of windows, and he aligned the conditioning centre directly with The Narrows.
Symonds says the Y told him what it wanted, but gave him a huge amount of design freedom.
“I couldn’t be happier with it, really,” he says.
With the facility’s ribbon-cutting so close and so many people involved, Rowe jokes it’s impossible to say who’s anticipating the opening more.
“It’s just such an exciting thing,” he says.
Jason Brown, CEO of the YM-YWCA of the Northeast Avalon, stands outside the organization’s soon-to-be-open facility on the corner of Ridge Road and Higgins Line. — Photo by Steve Bartlett/The Telegram