3:36 PM EDT, May 9, 2012
Stationary bicycles fill one former racquetball room while a martial arts studio fills a second. Basketball players used to such distractions dodge buckets scattered across the gymnasium floor as they continue their game.
The Towson Family Center Y is showing its age.
Though the staff has done its best to use space wisely for a variety of classes and workouts, they are hindered by a building cemented in the past with few windows, small hallways and plenty of cinder blocks and paneling.
"I lovingly refer to this as ... a bomb shelter," said John Hoey, president and CEO of Y of Central Maryland. "It was designed for a different era. The primary usage (then) was basketball and swimming. We need a lot more multiple-purpose space. We need a lot more fitness space. There is demand for a more fully equipped fitness area."
Beverly Landis, the district center director, has worked at the Towson center for two years and agrees that a new building is long overdue.
"This is a very tired, old building," Landis said. "We work extremely hard and a do a real good job keeping it clean and operational. The staff works extremely hard to keep it functional."
The Y of Central Maryland's 3,800 membership units — which equates to roughly 8,000 people — as well as the 2,000 nonmembers who use the facility for classes, will soon see their dedication rewarded.
A new building is planned, with construction tentatively scheduled to begin in the fall. By the end of next year, if the county approves, members will enjoy a new Y, complete with a saltwater pool, a climbing wall, multi-purpose rooms and a larger fitness room.
"Our vision for a Y is to be a bright, welcome opening space that has an infinite amount of uses and that people feel great about," Hoey said. "We believe it's important to walk in and see as much as possible."
Throughout the designing process, the Y has asked for input not only from its members, but from the surrounding communities.
Currently a two-story building, the new center will be a one-story building at the request of members and to address the concerns of residents who thought the original proposed plans for the building's walls were a little too high, Hoey said. The highest point will be the gymnasium.
"We flipped it around," Landis said of the gymnasium's location. "It will be in the middle of the property."
While some private homes are near the property line that will face the new building's back side, Hoey said that all set-back requirements were met.
"They will be looking at the back of a one-story building that is reasonably attractive in my opinion," Hoey said. "Candidly, they've been looking at an ugly building for years."
Not all residents are on board with the current plan.
Carol Rozencwaig, whose property willface the back of the new building, was pleased with many of the Y's changes in response to the communities' concerns. However, she said the main issue was not addressed, considering the proposed building will still be built where originally planned.
"We wanted them to push it forward, maybe 20 feet," Rozencwaig said. "It is sitting right on top of the nature trail.
"Overall, we are not pleased," she said. "When they go to the county for their permits, we are planning to appeal."
One of the changes Rozencwaig was pleased with was to the swimming pool, which was originally designed to feature a retractable roof, she said.
Now, two new swimming pools are planned that will allow the Y's swim team to practice at the site, rather than at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Hampton, where it has for years.
One pool will be for families, and feature various water toys. The other will be a six-lane lap pool.
"They feel disconnected to us," Landis said of the 120 swim team members. "They swim here for home meets only. They've been off-site for years.'
Plans also include a recreational sports field that will be constructed by the county's department of recreation and parks. The field will be used by both the county and the Y.
"Currently, we are in negotiations to purchase some of the Y's land for putting in a recreational field," said Barry Williams, director of Baltimore County's Department of Recreation and Parks. "We would maintain it and set up an overall schedule for use of the field. We would work out some type of agreement with them (the Y)."
With limited playing fields in the Towson area, Williams is excited to get the project moving forward.
"We are looking forward to this," Williams said. "We are in desperate need for additional fields. I wish we could fast-forward this and make it happen."
"We've always liked the idea of working with each other," Hoey said, of the partnership.
Funding for the $11.5 million project was raised through various fundraisers, state money, capital from a building sold by the Y and bank debt, Hoey said.
"We are still fundraising," Hoey added. "Every dollar raised, we borrow less."
Throughout the construction of the new building, the Y's doors will never close while the new building goes up in the footprint of the tennis courts. The center's 17 acres will retain its trails and woodlands.
Ann Rudolph and her son, Matthew, 4, were pleased that the Y will remain open during the construction.
"He was worried he wouldn't have swimming lessons any more," Rudolph said. "The whole place will be very nice."
A member for two years, William Weglein works with weights and uses the treadmill. He, too, is looking forward to the new building.
"It's time to upgrade," he said.