An expansion is one of the best ways your community rec center can reach a broader audience if you’re willing to put in the proper time and planning. Putting a brand new facility in a neighborhood that needs it is a great way to generate a lot of excitement about your organization and its mission.
In the cases of the recently built Spurlino Family YMCA in Riverview, Florida, and the Botetourt Family YMCA in Daleville, Virginia, the determining factor for each expansion was simple: community needs.
“We saw a region of extreme need, one that could really use a YMCA,” said Matt Mitchell, the CEO of the Spurlino Family Y. “We didn’t have a footprint here in Hillsborough County, so we decided it would be a great spot for a new Y.”
The Botetourt Family YMCA came as a direct result of requests from local neighborhoods, according to Tricia Reynolds, the Y’s branch executive. “The Botetourt community was requesting a YMCA and we wanted to be able to come to this community, and bring program and services that were not accessible to them,” she said.
The Spurlino Y was an instant hit when it opened. Having a good reputation in surrounding neighborhoods, strong marketing campaigns and simple communication to the southern Hillsborough County community about the building process all helped contribute to the mounting excitement over a new YMCA facility.
“The anticipation has been there since construction began,” said Mitchell. “We’re just over a month into having the facility open, and we have a little over 7,000 members already. It’s been supported greatly by the community.”
The Botetourt Y was also well-received in its community, being a direct answer to what the community was asking for. The new location also continues to give Reynolds and her staff new insights into evolving trends around them. “We are able to find out community needs as we go, and develop a program or service around those community needs,” she said.
As any rec professional knows, any construction project usually comes with delays. While there were minor logistical challenges to construction for both locations, the most inconvenient obstruction for each was uncooperative weather.
“We’re in Florida, and in the summertime, there’s a lot of rain,” said Mitchell. “We went from a time in spring where we were about two weeks ahead of schedule to, coming out of a rainy summer, being about two weeks behind schedule.”
Fortunately, Mitchell and the contractors he’s partnered with had accounted for potential mishaps in their initial plans. “The timeline is always so stressful, so creating a realistic timeline that accounts for potential setbacks — like weather or pauses related to permit requirements — is important,” he said. “You should work it into the timeline so you’re not so stressed to hit an unrealistic goal.”
For Reynolds and her team, excess rain also posed a problem. However, with effective communication with her construction partners, they were able to overcome that obstacle. “We had a lot of rain and some setbacks because of it,” she said. “But we had such a great construction company that pushed hard to be done by our January 1 opening date.”
Open communication with all parties involved in planning and construction will not only help alleviate potential issues, but maximize your ability to make your expansion plans into a reality. When planning your facility’s design and layout, there is a measure of intentionality you’ll want to use.
This attention to detail can make building maintenance easier, make the facility more inviting when members walk in, and facilitate a larger slate of fitness offerings. “Be intentional on designing so the building is easier to clean and maintain,” said Reynolds. “You should also consider building in spaces for members to socialize and build relationships.”
It’s also important to do plenty of research about the market you’re expanding to. “Do your homework,” said Mitchell. “Make sure you have data and trends that support where you’re investing resources so it’s going to be a home run.”
Careful evaluation of the area your organization is entering will help determine how you market the expansion and, most importantly, how you tailor your facility design and offerings to meet the needs of that community.
After all, according to Mitchell, serving your members should be priority No. 1 for any new endeavors your organization undertakes. “What you’re building is for them — it’s not really about you,” he said. “It’s about the resource you’re constructing that’s hopefully going to enhance the lives of those you wish to serve.”
An expansion is a great way to broaden the scope of your offerings, and when done correctly, it can deliver a great addition of health and wellness services to any community.
“We think every community deserves a YMCA,” said Mitchell. “We were able to open up a very important resource in a community that didn’t have one. This is a place where new families moving into the area can now go together to live healthier lives and improve their well-being.”