From left, Start High School band members Kingsley Eigbire, Melissa Millward, Dan Avery, Christina Notario, and Ben Baer check out the equipment in what used to be their band room. Annette Coates and her daughter, Angel Shedd, examine the weight room at the new YMCA.
To join or not to join: that was the question on Annette Coates' mind Saturday as she toured the new, $8.2 million West Toledo YMCA.
The early odds were admittedly not in the YMCA's favor. Miss Coates recalled lackluster impressions from a previous visit to the former West Toledo Y building, now closed, which was built in 1954.
"It was so small and cramped," she said.
But during yesterday's grand-opening festivities, Miss Coates, 41, walked into a very different West Toledo YMCA. The new building is three times the size of the old at more than 75,000 square feet, making it the largest facility of the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo.
She and her 8-year-old daughter, Angel Shedd, were among the several hundred visitors who poked around the shiny new facility off Tremainsville Road with eyes wide open and jaws dropped. Halfway through her tour, Miss Coates was won over.
"I am very impressed - this is real big and spacious and has much more equipment" she said. "Now that I see this huge improvement … I'm getting a membership."
Many tour-goers were similarly struck by the new surroundings.
"It's like a 3,000 percent improvement," said Lyn Bewie of West Toledo, as she checked out the building's aquatic center with its two swimming pools, shooting geysers, and giant yellow water slide. She said she could hardly wait for her aqua-jogging class tomorrow, when the building opens for fitness enthusiasts. She might even take a plunge down the slide. "I'm already signed up so I'll be here Monday morning," Mrs. Bewie said.
Back on land in the fitness center, William and Elaine Lucas of the Old West End strolled through the rows of cardio and weight machines.
Mr. Lucas said they have been visiting two YMCAs: the Summit YMCA near downtown for their exercise routines, and the Francis Family YMCA in Bedford Township, when they're with grandchildren who enjoy the family-oriented environment.
Yet now that the West Toledo Y has both plentiful children's activities and good workout facilities close to home, "this could be our primary place," Mr. Lucas said. "We've been waiting for this day."
Yesterday's events included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and day-long "West Fest" family picnic. Included in the music was the popular Village People song "Y.M.C.A."
The West Toledo Y project involved a multi-faceted partnership between the YMCA and Toledo Public Schools.
Most visibly, the branch includes renovated portions of the old Start High School building, and is attached by a hallway to the new Start High that opened last year.
Dan Avery, 16, a junior at Start and YMCA member, said the areas of the Y that were once his school are recognizable, yet quite different.
"You can tell that it used to be the auditorium, but it looks a lot better," he said. "The halls look a lot better - everything looks a lot better."
A Start alumnus in the building, Bill Syirka, surveyed the Y's hardwood-floored gymnasium and recalled his days as a point guard on the school's basketball team.
"That's my old gym," said Mr. Syirka, 40, a 1988 graduate and longtime YMCA member. "It brought back memories. There're different colors now and all the banners are gone, but other than that …"
The open house continues today from noon to 6 p.m. The building officially opens for workouts tomorrow at 5:15 a.m.
The YMCA is offering new West Toledo members up to $150 off a Max Membership until Sept. 30.
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