inPRACTICE / REC CENTER: A Community Boost

Botetourt Family YMCA In Daleville, Virginia

YMCA of Virginia's Blue Ridge added a fifth location to their system this year, the Botetourt Family YMCA. Mark Johnson, CEO of the group of Ys, explained how some Botetourt County citizens approached the Y around 2013, expressing interest in getting their own facility and discussing how the Y could partner with schools and help boost economic growth.

"From there the group grew, raising money for a needs assessment and a fundraising study," said Johnson. "Both came back positive. Over a four-year period the steering team raised $9.25 million toward the $10 million project. Botetourt County was a major contributor to the project."


GRO Development—a group of architects that works on Y facilities across the country—consulted in the initial planning and design phase, according to Johnson. "We also made several visits to Ys on the East Coast to look at design, materials and functionality. Once (Salem, Va.-based) G & H Contracting got on board they also did a lot of research to help make sure our design was affordable and easy to maintain."


Johnson joked that they have a saying in the Y: "Once you've seen one Y, you've seen one Y. Every YMCA is unique to the community it serves, and we really wanted the Botetourt Y to represent the Botetourt community."

Johnson, who has a construction background, also worked in his grandfather's cabinet shop, so it was a natural fit for him to oversee some of the features in the new building like the wood shiplap walls. Other features include epoxy floors for a stone look, a stone fireplace, and concrete floors and exposed steel beams to give an earthy feel to the facility that reflects its rural setting, according to Johnson. "We also chose a black chandelier, stainless signs and a few other features that were in sharp contrast to the earthy feel to reflect the sophisticated, innovative tone in the community.

"The plus to the materials used is they sent a message but they were also very durable, cost-effective and easy to clean and maintain," said Johnson, explaining how their design focused on making a good impression, therefore the entrance and welcome desk areas have higher design elements than the areas deeper in the facility. "Things like locker rooms were designed to be attractive but very cleanable since we know members want clean first."

Aquatics are a big part of many YMCAs, and the Botetourt facility features an eight-lane lap pool and a warm-water recreation and therapy pool. Johnson said technology played a big role in their aquatics. "High-efficiency boilers, innovative humidity control, lights that give us up and down light for safety and a gutter system that actually sucks chloramines off the top of the water before they get into the pools primary atmosphere were all added because we know that the environment in the room is central to the experiences of our members and program participants."


Other amenities at the new 43,000-square-foot facility include a basketball court, indoor walking track, three group exercise studios and a gymnasium with weights and more than 50 state-of-the-art exercise machines. Johnson said they looked to find the right balance between exercise space and program space, knowing that the community comes for both. "We focused on studies we did in advance and projected member usage during peak times to help us get the right balance. Kid's programs are central to who we are, so we made sure we had space to grow things like summer camp, dance and swim lessons. In fact, we removed an entire wall in the pool to allow for better space to stage swim lessons and swim meets." Water fitness, swim team and lifeguard training are other aquatic offerings.

The new branch offers a wide range of fitness and exercise classes, as well as personal training. Kids' offerings include soccer, T-ball, basketball, volleyball and pickleball. There are birthday parties and afterschool programs. The monthly Kids Night Out features games, crafts and swimming. There's daycare and a small activity center for kids. Johnson said they look to enrich kids' lives through experiences they might not be able to otherwise have. "Keeping kids safe is important to us, but we believe we can do much more than that in the time we are blessed to serve them."


There is also a community room for hosting meetings and parties, and Johnson said they've already hosted various community events. "We want to be the community gathering space, so we work with several groups to make gatherings possible."

The Blue Ridge Ys also have a financial assistance program, offering more than $700,000 in aid last year alone. "That's scholarships for programs, childcare, memberships and more. This is funded through annual giving campaigns at each branch, sponsorships and a staff commitment to function as efficiently as possible so we can serve more people regardless of their ability to pay," said Johnson.

Initial projections for membership and program participation have been exceeded at the Botetourt Family YMCA, and Johnson confirms that the community has embraced the new Y in a big way. "I've never experienced such an outpouring of support in the first few months of operation." RM