If you love going to the gym (or, OK, at least tolerate it) but are sick of staring at walls or TVs while you’re working out, the Family Y has what you need.
Just this week, the Downtown Y is opening up in its new location — called the Riverfront Y — just half a mile from its old location on Broad Street. You can find it in the giant pink building at 1 Seventh Street on the Riverwalk (where Fort Discovery used to be).
“This location is going to offer up some unique programming just because of the venue,” said Family YMCA of Greater Augusta President/CEO Danny McConnell. “When you have a place on the river, you want to use it. So we have some plans in the river and around the river, everything from kayaking classes to 5Ks and 10Ks around the river — things that would be very wellness-driven for adults, primarily. And yet, offer up the unique beauty of that river.”
The 11,000-square-foot location opens to members — who are full of excitement — on Dec. 26. As of Thursday, Dec. 21, tons of workers were buzzing around the building working to get it open, and they probably were going to work right up until Christmas Day to get it ready. It will open to the public on Jan. 2, with a grand opening coming Saturday, Jan. 13. The Riverfront Y has no basketball court or swimming pool, as it is geared toward professional adults and millennials who want to get in a good workout.
Besides being right by a beautiful part of nature in the CSRA, there is some high-tech stuff going on at this Y. A couple of exercise bikes called Expresso Bikes have high-def screens with tracks to choose from and swiveling handles to make it feel and look like you’re actually riding a bike outdoors, with the screen responding to the direction you put the handles and the bike responding with resistance to the track. Games on the bike will let you collect tokens and other incentives to keep riding. It’s a lot like playing a video game like Wii Fit, only even more realistic.
Melrose York, 65, of Martinez, is a longtime Family Y member and says she and others who have been using the Downtown Y are looking forward to the new location. She and her husband — who are retired and work out six days a week — have grown close to other people who use the Y. York also said the Family Y holds an extremely special place in her and her husband’s hearts because after their daughter and Family Y employee Katie died at age 20 from a seizure disorder back in 2008, the Wilson Family Y dedicated an adapted swimming pool to Katie, called the Kathryn M. York Adapted Aquatics Center.
Melrose York says she had been working out in the space on Broad Street since 1989, when it was owned by University Hospital as Health Central before being sold back to the YMCA about six years ago. The Broad Street location officially closed on Sunday, Dec. 17. TaxSlayer will be opening offices there.
“There’s an excitement down there; we’re looking forward to seeing the different programming and being together in a different place, although it’s bittersweet to leave that facility (on Broad Street),” York said. “The last night we walked out, I looked up and said, ‘I’ve been here for 30 years.’ There was a lot of sharing people’s joys and sadnesses; it was a bittersweet moment. But we’re looking forward to a new facility and seeing what that has to offer.”
When you first walk into the new location, you’ll want to look to your left, past the numerous treadmills and other cardio equipment. The Savannah River looms large straight outside the windowed wall. People using the cardio machines in that space could become mesmerized by its beauty. Then, there’s a cardio theater with about 30 spin bikes on different levels and a stage for an instructor’s bike. Behind the instructor will be a large screen used for things like showing mountain or coast scenes. McConnell also said there’s a 200-seat theater within the building housing the new Y, which could be used for all sorts of things, like Friday night concerts or family movie night.
The new Y really takes advantage of its outdoor space, too, with an area for outdoor classes (the tai chi instructor is really looking forward to having the river right there). And what looks like a bright orange, adult jungle gym offers all sorts of ways for people to work out using their own body weight — complete with monkey bars. And there is a courtyard-type space next to it, which will be an outdoor member lounge with an inspirational, prayer garden.
Monica Martinez-Canty, the location’s Corporate Membership Coordinator, is working closely with downtown businesses and getting them on board with membership discounts — starting with the global information technology company Unisys, which also is housed in the building.
“We’re just really excited to have a new facility and attract a variety of people and really strengthening our partnerships with downtown businesses,” Martinez-Canty said.
And for anyone wondering about the safety of being outdoors on the Riverwalk, McConnell said that’s really not an issue, with more activity going on downtown and at the Riverwalk in recent years — and he said there’s even a new Richmond County Sheriff’s Office substation in the building, which opened last month.
One of the biggest improvements members will notice when compared to the old Downtown Y is that the parking situation is vastly better at the new location. On Broad Street, members would spend time circling the building hoping to find a nearby spot. But at the new location, there’s tons of designated parking: about 70 spots are designated just for people using the YMCA, and there are two gravel lots on either side of the building, which total more than 700.
The Family Y staff is excited to make the Savannah River a part of people’s workout experience.
“We’re looking forward to getting it open,” said Riverfront Y Vice President Ronnie Scott. “We’ll use the Riverwalk down below next to the water, we’ll hold classes down there at various times of the year. Eventually we’ll finalize the partnership with the Augusta Marina down there. They are looking at paddle boarding, kayaking and canoeing.”
The Riverfront Y’s grand opening will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, and will include food, competitions, sample classes, prizes including memberships, facility tours and games.
For people interested in joining any Family Y location in January, the joiner fees will be waived, which could save new members $75 to $100. There’s also a program starting Jan. 20 called Team Lean 2018, which is a 12-week weight loss challenge including wellness coaching appointments and weekly health seminars. For that program, members pay $25 through Dec. 31 or $35 from Jan. 1-20; nonmembers pay $75 through Dec. 31 or $100 from Jan. 1-20, and nonmembers also will get a three-month Y membership included in that price. The Riverfront Y is a metro membership location, meaning members who join there will be able to use any location throughout the area. Visit thefamilyy.org for more information about memberships and locations, or call 706-922-6190.