The Coastal YMCA is investing $ 1.6 million in capital improvements to the West Chatham YMCA facility in Puller. This fall, the most trafficked branch of coastal Georgia will see renovations of critical infrastructure such as the gym, lobby and parking lot, which will modernize and expand the wellness center.
The investment is the first major capital project of the YMCA of Coastal Georgia in Chatham County since 2005 and serves as a starting point for a long-term capital strategy to address community trends and needs across the association, the YMCA said in a press release.
“With this much-needed overhaul, we look to the future and work to ensure that our facilities and services are ready to serve for the next 50 years,” said Joel Smoker, CEO of YCMA Coastal Georgia.
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In 2018, demographic and modernization studies were conducted before the pandemic slowed down strategic planning. With the resumption of the schedule, renovations to the 50-acre complex are scheduled to begin in September and are expected to be completed next April or May, according to Smoker.
The current floor of the fitness center will be open to make room for additional activities and new equipment. The lobby, which members and students often use as a work space or seating area, will also be remodeled.
New state-of-the-art wellness activities and programs such as LIVESTRONG at the YMCA and a blood pressure self-monitoring program combined with EGYM’s intelligent strength system will streamline and personalize visitors’ fitness experiences.
Other programs such as YMCA water safety programming, nutrition training, chronic disease prevention programs, and summer day camp programming will also benefit from this investment, said Summer Bozeman, YCMA’s director of communications and marketing for Coastal Geo.
Programs and activities will continue during the renovation, Smoker said. The fitness center will most likely be moved to the gym. Post-school and day care programs will migrate from the outside to the pavilion and remain in line with state licensing standards, Smoker added.
All this covers phase 1 of the long-term capital strategy. Phase 2 has not yet started as funding has not yet been identified.
With the upcoming remodeling, the facility hopes to improve the overall health of the local community after the long-running pandemic, Smoker said.
The YMCA of Coastal Georgia cites a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found that the body mass index in children aged two to 19 nearly doubled after the pandemic.
Smoker acknowledged that people find it difficult to pay for health care. Residents may not be able to afford a monthly membership of $ 53 for individuals or $ 66 for a household with two adults. The YMCA has scholarship and income-based funding programs for those struggling financially, he said.
“Here comes Y – we invest in proven programs to prevent and control chronic diseases and improve health outcomes by supporting people with friendly places for physical activity, nutrition training opportunities and a peer support community,” Smoker said.
Growth in Western Chatham
Since 1989, the Coastal Georgia YMCA has expanded from two branches in one county to 10 in seven counties in response to the rapid growth of suburban communities in the region.
Over the past few decades, the population of western Chatham County has grown exponentially. In 2000, the western cities of Chatham – Puller, Port Wentworth, Garden City and Bloomingdale – had a total population of about 23,500.
In 2020, this number has doubled to 49,400.
Most of this growth comes from Puller and Port Wentworth, where scattered units have taken over previously undeveloped land. Relatively affordable housing and job growth, boosted by the commercial and industrial sectors, attracted residents from across the map.
As a result, Pooler’s facility at YCMA has witnessed a population boom and commercial growth.
In 2001, when the center first opened, it was one of the few businesses on the Pooler Parkway section. The main corridor is now one of the busiest roads in the Savannah area, connecting large residential complexes with commercial businesses and the two Interstate 95 and 16 highways.
“Puller is no longer the sleepy community it used to be,” Smoker said.
Pooler Y currently has about 7,000 members plus 1,700 additional participants in the program. In 2021, the facility had about 120,000 visitors, but Smoker added that things are still accelerating after the pandemic.
Learn more about the YMCA of Coastal Georgia or find a facility near you:
Nancy Guan is a general task reporter covering Chatham County municipalities. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @nancyguann.