Renovations create new look at Woodruff Family YMCA

Residents who haven’t been to the Woodruff Family YMCA recently are in for some surprises. The YMCA is wrapping up $1.1 million in renovations and the changes are noticeable.

The second floor now boasts a full gym with brand new equipment. The light and airy space offers views of the outdoors and other activities taking place at the Y.

“If you’re running on the treadmill you can look out the windows and get a look at what else is going on,” said Charlie Clifford, YMCA district executive director.

The new space upstairs measures 8,500 square feet, and downstairs there is 3,500 square feet of new space.

Alisha Williams, health and wellness director, said the renovations allow for more fitness programming, including more classes designed for children.

“I’m very excited about the new space,” Williams said. “I think it’s something that puts us on the market as a gym.”

“All of this steps up the Y’s impact,” Clifford said.

The YMCA had been fundraising for about two years as it geared up for renovations that really got moving about six months ago. The leading donor was an Orange resident who wants to remain anonymous. The rest of the money came from state funds, community group donations and private donations.

Last year when the state announced that it was giving $250,000 to the YMCA for its improvements, officials praised the work that the YMCA does in the community.

“The Woodruff Family YMCA is an invaluable resource for our families,” said state Sen. Gayle Slossberg when the state contribution was announced. “We know that these programs make our children lifelong learners, and improve academic and life outcomes. Our children are the ones who stand to benefit most from these renovations.”

A big part of the renovation is expanded childcare and preschool on the lower level, allowing the YMCA to start taking names off its waiting lists. Currently there is room for 25 children in one room, and that is expanding to three rooms for 20 children each.

“The need now is for full day,” Clifford said, explaining the community’s largely dual income families have created a need for childcare throughout the city, and a focus on early learning has made preschool just as important.

Before the rooms “didn’t meet the demand,” Clifford said, explaining that the expanded childcare and preschool rooms should be complete in November.

There is an elevator to the second floor, improved locker rooms, more programming space and more, all meant to make the YMCA an important community center. Clifford said 10 years ago there were 1,900 members, and today there are 5,000, and he said those numbers show that the YMCA is having an impact.

The focus here is on health: One woman who has been coming recently told Williams that for the first time in a long time her doctor said she is no longer pre-diabetic.

Clifford agreed, saying the YMCA is helping people refocus on health.

“People are coming here to drop medications; saying they started at four or six medications and now they’re down to two,” Clifford said.

On a recent day, senior citizens exercised in the pool, with its retractable roof, while women took part in a spinning class on the second floor and workers put the final touches on the new gym equipment upstairs. Downstairs children colored or worked on puzzles in the preschool room, a woman typed on her laptop and sipped coffee in the lounge area as she waited for someone to finish a class, and construction workers set their sights on upgrades in a main level locker room.

“It’s going to be really cool when it’s done,” Clifford said. “What’s cool is the community partnership, and our ability to have a great impact.”

The YMCA program guide paints a picture of all the things this community center offers: from swim lessons to dance and archery classes for youth, to personal training, spinning and kickboxing for adults.

“From afterschool programs to health and wellness activities for seniors, YMCAs are more than just brick and mortar structures—they are the lifeblood of communities,” said Governor Dannel Malloy last year when announcing state funding for the YMCA expansion. “I am proud that the State of Connecticut is able to support programs like this which provide a host of services that increase the quality of life for residents.”

Also, coming soon, the parking lot will be expanded, and there will be new turf fields adjacent to the YMCA with a running track around the perimeter.

The Board of Aldermen recently approved a land swap between the city and YMCA so the city can build two athletic turf fields on land entirely owned by the city.

The aldermen’s stamp of approval means the two multi-purpose athletic turf fields can be built on the land just south of the YMCA property at 631 Orange Avenue. Each new field will be 210 feet by 360 feet.

A walking and biking trail will surround the fields and loop around the YMCA property.

City officials expect the new fields to be ready by this time next year.

Fees to join the YMCA are on a sliding scale based on household income, and there are scholarships available to help with costs, Clifford said.