The Future Is Bright
Sage YMCA in Crystal Lake, Ill.
By Joseph Bush
Sage YMCA, owned and operated by YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago and located in Crystal Lake, Ill., is a shining example of the YMCAs of the future.
Conceived in 2011 and finished this past spring, the project added more than twice as much space to the original facility. Everything is improved, from traffic flow to organization of member needs to program offerings for the community, fulfilling the mission of the YMCA in general and Sage YMCA in particular: "to develop strong children, families and communities through academic readiness, character development, violence prevention, fitness and healthy living."
The process presented challenges to the architects, Charles Vincent George Architects of Naperville, Ill., because of the facility's importance as well as the YMCA's status as a nonprofit, not to mention that the entire 14-month construction phase took place while the facility conducted business as usual:
- High profile: "The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago wanted this project to be the flagship of their new branding movement," said Jeffrey Lietz, vice president of commercial architecture for Charles Vincent George. "Close collaboration with the YMCA's marketing and branding team needed to occur in order to translate their membership experience into real brick-and mortar deliverables.
- Nonprofit finance oversight: "Budget is of great importance when working with nonprofit organizations," Lietz said. "These projects are funded through donations from members and organizations throughout the region. Every dollar is accounted for and, therefore, material selections and building complexity needed to be constantly monitored for best practice and best approach."
- 'Pardon Our Dust' logistical solutions: "YMCA staff was flexible and moved their office facilities a number of times as construction progressed through the regions of the facility," Lietz said. "The completed project consisted of 12 phases, many of which occurred concurrently when feasible to ensure the safety of staff and members."
Added to the site were an eight-lane 25-yard competition pool with mezzanine seating for more than 300 people, and in the aquatics wing, fully renovated men's, women's and family locker rooms, steam rooms and a whirlpool. The existing pool got new lighting and ventilation, as well as handicap access.
For fitness, there is now 7,000 square feet of aerobic and strength training equipment, purposefully located near the existing full-court gymnasium and walking track. Members can now enjoy a dedicated spin room and racquetball court with two multipurpose program rooms for exercise programming.
The preschool center now has its own secure wing, which includes three DCFS-licensed classrooms, a playground, a kitchen and an open corridor where students can display their work. Lietz said the three areas are connected by a transition space that boasts a café, large fireplace, televisions and Wi-Fi access. There is also babysitting and an open kids zone for exercising parents.
Lietz said in his opinion the highlights of the addition are the updating of the look and intuitive, open environment.
"Prior to our renovation and addition, the facility did not have a cohesive, singular look," he said. "The building consisted of the original 1972 structure, with additions attached in both 1980 and 1999, giving a hodge-podge appearance. Many existing YMCAs can be compared to schools with the use of concrete block and punched window openings. Our approach to this project was to provide the YMCA a building with a holistic design, masking the old with new, more modern concepts.
"The design layout of the facility provides easy navigation throughout the facility. Upon entry you're greeted by a circular reception desk acting as the hub of the facility. From there you can choose your destination: left for daycare and preschool, straight for pool viewing, lounge or café, and right for fitness and locker rooms."
Lietz said the project included materials from Trespa, Alucobond, Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope, Kawneer, and ATMI Precast. Chicago's Power Construction was the builder.
"It was important to 'bring the outside in,' utilizing many of the exterior building materials on the interior," he said. "This created a challenge when selecting exterior materials knowing they need to be appropriate when providing a warm and inviting interior environment."
Robyn Ostrem, the executive director of Sage YMCA, said the results are both immediate, short term and long term. The relationship with community groups is an important beneficiary, she said.
"Membership has grown significantly, and we're expanding our program offerings," she said. "We are partnering with the community in new ways. For example, we provide space for Free Guitars for Future Stars, Four Strings Attached, District 155 STRIVE Program and the initial launch home of Inglesia Oasis."
Ostrem said The Early Learning Center can offer year-round all-day preschool for working families, and the new pool and seating is ideal for the Sage YMCA Piranhas swim team. Also, included in the fitness addition is a private fitness consultation room to provide free fitness assessments to members.