Fitness and Family
Bright, Modern South County Y Features Familiar Programs and New Offerings
From the climbing maze in the children’s area to the intergenerational boardroom to the outdoor rooftop workout space the new South County YMCA in Urbana is part gym, part community meeting place, part kid fun center and part senior activity center.
“From birth to death, we do have something for everyone,” says Chris Colville, executive director of YMCA of Frederick County.
The 65,000-square-foot South County Y, which opened last month, has been in the planning stages for about nine years, although the land was donated to the Y back in 2007 by Tom Natelli, developer of the Villages of Urbana. As the sprawling new community in Urbana grew, the patch of land between Urbana Middle and Urbana High schools seemed like a perfect spot for a new Y.
Despite several roadblocks—including the 2008 recession and two floods that caused more than $2 million in damage to the organization’s North Market Street location/headquarters—the South County Y was expected to open in 2020. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Still, even with the pandemic’s challenges, construction continued at a slightly slower pace, and the $23.5 million Y is now ready for members.
Just off the entrance to the new building is the 25-yard competition swimming pool with eight wide lanes. Next to the pool is a warm-water family/class pool with colorful tumble buckets, a slide that looks like it’s emerging from the mouth of a giant frog, spray jets, and an area for water aerobics.
Local schools and swim teams will be able to use the pool, as well. “We built a larger pool and enhanced the size and scope of the aquatic center because the county wants people to have access to swimming programs,” Colville says.
The Y lost 42 percent of its 2,400 memberships when the pandemic hit last spring. Although some memberships have since been renewed, the Y’s childcare program also took a hit. The organization hopes South County Y will attract 1,800 new memberships, helping to boost the Y’s ability to bring in new programming.
Monthly memberships range from $25 to $55, depending on age, while household memberships are $102. Seniors 55 and older get a discount. For those who can’t afford a full membership, the Y offers financial assistance.
BRIGHT NEW SPACE
It’s not just the pool that is larger than life at the new Y. There’s an 8,000-square-foot fitness area that features 29 pieces of cardio equipment with touch-screen consoles; 19 strength-training machines; a weight area with dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, plates and more; two group fitness rooms and a spacious spin room with 16 bikes.
There’s also a set of eight programmable strength-training machines that will sync to member wristbands that automatically readjust the machines to settings the user programs. “It adjusts for you, after you are fitted the first time,” Colville says.
There are family locker rooms with private spaces for anyone who wants to use them, along with men’s and women’s locker rooms. Enclosed areas like stairwells feature skylights that bring in natural light.
Windows line the long end of the second-floor fitness area, bringing in more natural light and giving an outdoors feel to the space. And for those who need to get outside, an outdoor rooftop workout space is available. An outdoor amphitheater will provide more space for classes and event—just one touch of the pandemic’s influence.
“Our business model is forever going to look different,” Colville says. “We’ll always have a virtual option for classes, and some class offerings will stay outside.” Even spin classes will be moved outdoors on occasion. Other outdoor fitness classes at South County Y will include yoga, Pilates and strength training.
The cavernous gym offers six hoops for basketball. There are also three pickleball courts and two volleyball courts marked on the floor. But these won’t be the only gym sports offered. Indoor soccer, karate, martial arts and preschool sports will also be on the menu. Above the gym is a rubber-surfaced, three-lane jogging track.
For those who want to watch swim meets from above, a balcony provides an expansive view. Bleachers provide a place to sit.
A two-story fun zone for kids to play in while their parents work out resembles a McDonald’s indoor playground with a mesh climbing maze, play stoplights, a bright yellow tubular slide and other indoor geometric playground features.
A community room on the first floor has Wi-Fi, screen for presentations and corners for games and socializing. This can be meeting space, a place for birthday parties, book clubs or daily recreation. “We’ll have comfortable couches for older adults and spaces to play bridge, have lunch together and relax with friends,” Colville says.
In the late afternoon, older adults tend to migrate home, and Colville hopes the space can become an afterschool hangout for teens. “We are located between the middle and high school,” Colville says. “In a perfect world, we would mix the two generations at times.”
There will also be cooking and art classes. Eventually, the Y hopes to offer a childcare center at South County Y. For now, however, childcare will remain at the Green Valley Y and the Frederick Y. There will be summer day camps for kids.
Most of the features found in the Frederick Y will be available locally to south county residents. There will be personal training, small group training, fitness assessments and exercise programs tailored to those with Parkinson’s disease.
Susan Dodd has been a member of Frederick County YMCA since she and her husband moved to Urbana in 2003. For many years, she worked out sporadically at the Downtown Y, but working full time at Fort Detrick didn’t give her a lot of extra time.
Dodd, 62, is now retired and walks for exercise. Instead of traveling to Frederick for activities, she’s looking forward to walking or biking to the nearby Urbana location. She is committed to the YMCA concept, and kept up her membership even when she had little time to use it.
As a high school and college student, Dodd was a camp counselor at a YMCA resident summer camp in Iowa. “Being out of doors, working outside, having campfires at night and telling stories around the fire, it was an extremely valuable experience for me,” she says. Her father told her stories about going to the Y as a child in his Iowa hometown, and she continued the family tradition during her early working years, attending exercise classes at a Y in Des Moines.
Now, she’s looking forward to getting back in shape. “I particularly like to walk on the track and do the weight machines.” The workouts offer her a way to undo the damage from years of sitting in a chair at work. “Sitting is a good way to make a living, but it’s not good for your health,” she says. “I’m never sorry that I go to an exercise class.”
Dodd is eager to try not only the workout offerings, but cooking and wellness classes. “I so strongly believe they offer things for all ages that develop positive lifestyles.” She’s hoping the South County Y will inspire a new generation of Y users the way her father’s early experiences inspired her.