The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Kids ~ Family

October 3, 2013

Agog over big, new Haverford Y

For those used to its predecessors' cozy dimensions - "Say intimate; don't say dungeon," executive director Jamie Bruning jokes - the new Haverford Area YMCA might take some getting used to.

With three pools, two two-story water slides, a gleaming basketball court, an indoor track, and treadmills hooked to the Internet, the planners of the expansive facility seem to have thought up everything they could to make this YMCA bigger and better.

They even built a space for people who like things a little smaller. Overlooking the main exercise room, where 80 pieces of workout equipment stand imposingly in the aisles, a smaller collection of apparatus has a loft to itself.

"This is for our guests who like their workouts a little more intimate," staff member Omoiye O. Kinney explained. "It's a huge transition."

So huge, she added, "somebody was crying in the lobby this morning."

The new Haverford Y was buzzing on its first day of operation Tuesday, and most guests seemed delighted and a little awed, if not quite moved to tears.

"It's overwhelming. It's beautiful," said Karen Pierce, 65, of Villanova, who said she was a member for 30 years of the Main Line Y in Ardmore, which the facility replaced. Pierce eagerly perused the list of courses offered in the facility, noting cardio and weightlifting classes she might want to try.

Funded through a capital campaign, the $25 million building has 72,000 square feet, compared to 24,000 square feet at the old club, built in the 1950s. Bruning said about 2,000 families belonged to the Ardmore club and membership has increased by 1,000 households. He said he hopes to reach 5,000 to 6,000.

He ticked off the new Y's amenities: a six-lane lap pool, a warmer pool for swimming lessons, and a third with a zero-depth edge so even infants can wade in; full accessibility for people with disabilities; bicycles equipped with virtual reality games.

Allison Burke, 33, of Havertown, tried out the fancy bike while sons Charlie, 2, and Teddy, 1, played with babysitters in the free child-care room.

"It's really hard. I chose this mountain route," she said. "It's certainly better than just doing the regular bike."

Picking Charlie and Teddy up from the children's room, where at least a dozen toddlers were enjoying games and picture books, Burke said she planned to bring them to the Y almost every day.

Bruning said he hoped older children will come, too, especially once Haverford Township completes a walking trail that will link the YMCA to Haverford Middle School and High School. To entice them, the facility will offer free memberships to seventh graders and a nighttime teen room.

Long before the YMCA broke ground in May 2012, the site on Eagle Road was a bubble gum factory.

It has been a site of remedial action by the EPA since 1976 due to the presence of dangerous chemicals in groundwater. EPA officials, out of work due to the government shutdown, could not comment Tuesday, but they have said that the site was safe for the YMCA to open.

Guests poured through the doors Tuesday, even though the facility will not open completely for several days. Among them were Shellie Hoyt Zollo and her sister Brenda Chinofsky.

Hoyt Zollo said that she suffers from fibromyalgia and back problems that would improve with exercise, but since she is out of work, she cannot afford other gyms' membership costs. She was excited to hear from a YMCA staff member about the club's reduced-cost membership options.

"I really want to get healthy, and they were able to make the price so much more affordable," she said. Chinofsky had her own goal: "My son's getting married next year, and I want to be thin enough for the wedding."

The sisters discussed plans to bring the rest of their large family, from their parents, who raised 19 children in the area and live with Chinofsky, to Hoyt Zollo's young grandchildren.

Chinofsky wanted her 10-year-old daughter to learn how to use the workout machines with a personal trainer. She made an appointment to come back that afternoon.

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