Facility Profile - October 2004
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Good Growth

Ashland Family YMCA
Ashland, Ore.

By Sutton R. Stokes

"It allowed us to grow our child-care programs as well, so while we added adult programs, we kept our focus also on our youth programs," Molnar says. "Once we opened and equipped that part of our building, we grew to close to 5,000 members. It was a time of tremendous growth."

So much growth, in fact, that a final expansion was needed almost immediately. Ogden Kistler provided the design work again, mapping out an expansion of the fitness center, an additional aerobics studio, an enlarged lobby and a two-room conference facility.

Adding a combined 36,000 square feet, at a cost of $3.2 million, the two Ogden Kistler-designed expansions were faced with some obstacles. In the pool area, one question that arose was how to protect the exposed structural steel framing from airborne chlorine, "which is usually responsible for the abbreviated life cycles of any indoor natatorium," according to Jim Roemer, project architect.

Since airborne chlorine is carried by moisture in the air, Roemer explains, his team decided to dry the air in the enclosure as it circulates.

"We also coated the structural steel with more than just your average steel paint," Roemer says. "It's an actual epoxy coating."

Another challenge appeared during the expansion of the original building's first-floor aerobics room. It was considered imperative that no columns break up what would be a 60-foot span of open space, in order to maximize the room's flexibility. However, the planned second-story weight room above the studio would require considerable structural support.

"To get a free span of 60 feet with no columns…almost couldn't be done; we had to help to support these long-span steel beams with the superstructure of the roof above the second floor," says Roemer, who compares the technique to that used for suspension bridges.

Completed in 2002, the final expansion phase boosted membership rolls once again.

"When we built that final piece of the building, that was just to accommodate the [5,000] members we already had; since then, over the last year and a half, we're now up to about 6,700 members and really pretty full," says Molnar, who doesn't anticipate any further expansions.

As proud as Molnar is of the growth of the facility, she is quick to point to another aspect of the YMCA as the most satisfying aspect of her job.

"Almost every single day I will see or talk to somebody in need that we're able to help through our programs and services," says Molnar, who points out that, since the YMCA is not operated for-profit, financial assistance is available to children and families who wouldn't otherwise be able to participate in sports leagues, summer camps and other YMCA programs. "It's something that makes me feel the best about what we do."

And it must be at least part of the reason why the YMCA is able to provide so many Ashland residents with the answer to the question: "What do you want to do today?"

For more information
Ashland Family YMCA: www.ashlandymca.org

OgdenRoemerWilkerson Architecture: www.ORWarchitecture.com