Alabaster YMCA opens new branch

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

After 42 years in the same building and more than three years of work, the Alabaster YMCA added a new, larger facility to the city Sept. 30.

At 11 a.m., YMCA closed on the former Body Shop Health Club at 117 Plaza Circle off Alabama 119 in Alabaster. On Oct. 1, the YMCA will open the building to its members.

The new facility will serve as the YMCA’s Alabaster Family Branch, while the organization will continue to house its youth and childcare services in the current Alabaster YMCA building off Seventh Street Southwest.

“That way, we can serve both parts of the family with those two facilities,” said Alabaster YMCA Executive Director Lane Vines.

Purchasing the former Body Shop building is the first phase of YMCA’s plan to expand its offerings in Alabaster, Vines said. The organization is also looking to construct a youth gymnasium, a youth education and development center and an outdoor six-lane swimming pool near the Plaza Circle facility.

“Once it gets built, the pool will look a lot like the Ballantrae pool, if that kind of gives you an idea of how it’s going to look,” Vines said. “We are hoping to have that second phase of the project open by June of 2011.”

Once the YMCA builds a new youth and outdoor swimming center, it will close the current facility off Seventh Street Southwest.

YMCA already owns 40 acres of land near the Plaza Circle center, which it will use to house playing fields until the organization is able to raise enough money to build a new, 30,000-40,000 square-foot facility.

Once the final facility is completed, possibly by 2013, it will house an indoor gym, an indoor aquatics center and several other amenities, Vines said.

By gradually moving to larger facilities, the YMCA will be able to offer several more programs and serve more people than it has for the past several years, he said.

“Alabaster is the largest city in Shelby County, but we have had the smallest presence there for a long time,” Vines said. “This is a project that is much-needed for the people we serve in Alabaster.

“The city has always been very pro-Y, and has really supported us since the beginning,” Vines said.

Vines said he originally wanted to build all of the new Alabaster facilities at the same time, but the economic downturn forced the YMCA to split the expansion project into three phases.

“The project has been in the works for about three years now. We wanted to do everything all at once, but then the recession got in the way,” Vines said. “With the economy the way it is, we didn’t feel it was right to launch a huge fundraising campaign all at once.

“But we do see the economy turning around pretty soon,” he added. “We have had real good support from everyone so far, and we look forward to reaching each one of those goals.”