EAST RUTHERFORD — Just a few months after the “Y Without Walls” opened its first home in the former Nets training facility, the Meadowlands Area YMCA has cut the ribbon on its new aquatics center.
In May, the YMCA opened its 83,200-square-foot facility at 390 Murray Hill Parkway, converted from a building once used by the Nets basketball team.
It marked the first time the 97-year old organization has a centralized location, having previously held its programming in a network of schools, community centers and senior centers.
Teri Festa, chief marketing and development officer, said people have been calling about the pool since the facility first opened last spring.
“We were fearful that we wouldn’t be able to include the pool in this phase [of construction], but what is a Y without a pool?” said Festa.
The 25-yard, regulation-size competition pool has a scoreboard and mezzanine viewing bleachers. Presently, it serves as the home for the Y’s competitive swim team and for membership programs.
January marks a new season for the Meadowlands YMCA, and a chance to attract new members in those looking to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions.
Speaking at the ribbon-cutting, board Chairman Ron Simoncini said the pool marked the completion of the Meadowlands YMCA construction, calling it a “satisfying moment.”
“Right before Christmas, we can make this facility a gift to our region, just at the right time… because a lot of people join the YMCA, and I myself have joined various gyms, before the first of the year,” said Simoncini.
“Through all the changes in technology, entertainment and fitness, you see the YMCA is 140 years old at this point, and going strong,” Simoncini noted. “There is always a place for this type of facility, where the community comes together. The needs of various people, whether they are an in-need population or populations that are using this facility for a social event or fitness, there is a place for everybody at this YMCA.”
Jane Egan, president and CEO of the Meadowlands YMCA, called the opening an exciting day for the region.
Mayor James Cassella, center, cuts the ribbon on the new aquatics center for the Meadowlands YMCA, as swimmers jump into the new pool behind him. Also pictured are Richard Branca of Branca Properties, YMCA President and CEO Jane Egan, board Chairman Ron Simoncini and Lloyd Rosenberg of DMR Architects. (Photo: Courtesy of the Meadowlands YMCA)
“This is the last time you will hear me say this: For 97 years, we were known as the Y Without Walls. We are no longer the Y Without Walls,” said Egan. “From learning to swim to parent-child classes, to swim team, to family swims, to aquatic exercise classes and lap swimming, lifeguard training, and so much more.”
The Meadowlands YMCA opted to borrow to fund the construction of the 9,200-square-foot aquatics center, with the goal of bringing in new members. Initially estimated to cost about $6 million, after shovels broke ground and the pool was added, the project’s price tag has ballooned to $14.5 million.
Simoncini explained that property owner Richard Branca was instrumental in adding this element, as the YMCA initially didn’t have the funds to build it.
“I was not ready to build a swimming pool, because we didn’t have enough money to build a swimming pool, and Richard said, ‘Don’t worry about that,’” recalled Simoncini. “You can’t open a Y without a swimming pool being a part of the Y, because that’s what is going to make people in this community excited—build a pool. And we had to figure that out.”
The Nets occupied the facility for nearly 15 years, and hearing of the Meadowlands YMCA’s need for a home, Branca said he approached the board about moving in.
“We lost a couple of backhoes in there” digging the hole, noted Lloyd Rosenberg of DMR Architects. “It was a challenge to build a pool in this area. Not only was it a challenge from the construction side, but it was also a challenge from the approval side.”
The Y is seeking to close the funding gap through fundraising, hosting a memorial brick campaign and selling the naming rights for rooms and the pool, and sponsorships, like the organization’s agreement with Pepsi, parent company of Gatorade.
Festa said the volunteer board members have been meeting with donors.
“We hope to raise interest and awareness, as the pool is an important element in our community,” Festa said, adding that the nonprofit is still short a “significant amount” to cover the entire cost of the facility.
The pool by the numbers:
- 6 lanes
- About 9 feet deep
- 25 yards
- 138,000 gallons
From the Mara Center for Early Childhood Learning to the teen lounge, and from the fitness center to classes for seniors in the tech center, the facility was designed for all ages.
“This is a Y for the whole family,” Festa affirmed.
Members of the nonprofit board and East Rutherford officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday to officially open the aquatics center.
Festa confirmed that the Meadowlands YMCA will continue to use the Rutherford High School pool. In years past, the Y held swim lessons and team meets in the borough.
Aside from the pool, the Murray Hill center is home to recreational and educational programming.
The gym contains two NBA-size basketball courts, scoring system and backboards, all donated by the outgoing Nets. The accompanying fitness center offers state-of-the-art exercise equipment. Nearly 400 health and lifestyle programs for all ages — ranging from prenatal yoga to an introduction to computers for seniors — is held in the various multipurpose classrooms and teaching kitchen.
A self-contained wing contains the early childhood center, serving children 6 weeks through 5 years through an age-appropriate curriculum and certified instructors.
The Mara family, co-owners of the New York Giants, funded the child care center, and the NFL and the team sponsored the turfed, outdoor playground.
For more on the Meadowlands Area YMCA and its programming, visit www.meadowlandsymca.org.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com.