By Stefanie Jackson – The Northampton County YMCA was “almost a done deal” as of Feb. 11, when a meeting was held at Cape Charles Baptist Church to update the public on the project.
Retired YMCA of South Hampton Roads President and CEO Billy George shared the news Tuesday night that the sale of the future location of the new YMCA, a 25-acre parcel facing Route 13 in Cape Charles, was expected to close this week.
But the most unexpected news, according to George, was that the $4.5 million dollar project is only $115,000 away from being fully funded.
It was just about a year ago that George first met with the Rev. Russell Goodrich, pastor of Cape Charles Baptist Church, and Bruce Bradley, former chair of the YMCA of South Hampton Roads board, to discuss the possibility of building a YMCA in Northampton.
The land will be cleared beginning April 1, and following about eight or nine months of construction, the YMCA is expected to open in January 2021.
The new facility will be “very similar” to the Eastern Shore Family YMCA in Onley, George said.
The 14,000-square-foot building will have a fitness center, locker rooms, an aerobics room, multipurpose rooms, and two outdoor pools – a family-friendly play pool and a four-lane lap pool for swimming lessons or swim-team training.
The outdoor pools are expected to be open from mid-April to late October.
The new facility was not designed with an indoor pool because that is the most expensive feature for any YMCA to build and maintain, especially when the area doesn’t have a large “critical mass” of potential members, George said.
An indoor pool would pose “the biggest threat” to the sustainability of the Northampton County YMCA, he continued.
One of the YMCA’s campgrounds has an indoor pool that costs $32,000 a year to maintain, and it’s only used in the summer, George cautioned.
But for $300,000, an “architectural membrane” could be installed over the lap pool, a cost-effective alternative to an indoor pool, George said.
The structure is similar to a tent, built with an aluminum frame and covered with fabric. It can withstand winds up to 130 mph.
The sides of the tent are not used in the summer, and the roof serves as a canopy over the pool.
The suggestion prompted audience members to begin pledging donations for the enclosure. George said that the structure is optional and if it is not built, their donations will be refunded.
The hours of operation for the new YMCA have not been determined. The Eastern Shore Family YMCA has typical hours of operation, George said. It’s open Monday to Friday, 5:45 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
One key to the success of Northampton’s YMCA will be flexible hours, George said. For example, the facility might be open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., close in the afternoon, then re-open from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
But “if people use it, the Y is open,” he added.
Anyone who is a member of the YMCA may use its facilities at any of its locations, including tourists visiting Cape Charles during the summer.
“Once you belong to one of our Ys … you belong to every Y in America,” George said.
There are a few locations that are exempt from this policy, such as Nag’s Head, N.C., whose population surges to 300,000 in the summer, which the local YMCA cannot accommodate.
“But we do take care of our members,” he said.
Since a YMCA membership is valid at any location, members of the Eastern Shore Family YMCA who will prefer to use the Northampton County facility once it opens will not need to transfer their memberships.
Membership prices are not yet set, but members will be charged on a sliding scale, George said.
There are memberships for individuals, two people living in the same household, and families.
At the Eastern Shore Family YMCA, an individual membership costs $63 a month, but the sliding scale adjusts the cost for lower-income members.
For example, an individual member of the YMCA in Chesapeake, Va., earning less than $20,000 annually pays $27 a month.
The average YMCA member who uses the sliding scale pays roughly $45 per month, George said.
The Northampton County YMCA will be visible from Route 13, but it will not be accessed directly from the highway. Drivers will turn onto Parsons Circle either from Route 13 or Stone Road, which leads to and from the town of Cape Charles.
The $4.5 million budget for the new YMCA does not include plans for every amenity requested by locals, such as a hot tub or an outdoor basketball court, but the facility has room to grow and extra features can be added later, George reminded everyone.
“The Y’s not just a building,” he said. It provides “anything that the community needs.”