Getting a healthy face-lift

Shawn Patch, CEO of North Central Florida YMCA, gave a tour of the newly expanded Northwood facility to Richard Blalock, city of Newberry Parks and Recreation director, left, and Hal Brady, city of Alachua Parks and Recreation director. They are standing in the new Wellness Center.

Photos by TRACY WILCOX/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 29, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 28, 2005 at 10:28 p.m.

Northwood YMCA marks expansion with celebration

The party today to celebrate the latest expansion of the largest YMCA in North Central Florida couldn't take place soon enough for 9-year-old Eric, according to the boy's mother, Teri Garard.
"He's really excited about the child-sized fitness equipment," said Gerard, who has dropped 50 pounds in part because of daily workouts at the Northwood YMCA. "He just wants to try it all."
More than 300 people are expected to attend a free grand opening event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Some of the activities scheduled include laser tag, a rock climbing wall and face painting.
Also, the Gainesville Police Department will give parents the opportunity to allow their children to participate in Ident-A-Kid, a program that helps find and locate missing children.
"We are really trying to make it like a day at the fair," said Tim Blenco, YMCA's regional director.
Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan and Albert the Alligator, the University of Florida mascot, will be on hand for the ribbon-cutting celebration. Five Star Pizza and Pepsi-Cola will serve refreshments.
The 13,000-square-foot expansion includes a karate dojo, pre-school gymnastics center, dance studio, spinning room, children's fitness center and more.
The $1.4 million project, funded by a tax-exempt Industrial Revenue Bond, was the result of market research done two years ago by the Atlanta-based Winfield Consulting Group. The research firm has worked with more than 600 YMCAs in more than 100 cities across the country.
The study found that, given the population of Gainesville and local interest, the Northwood YMCA warranted the renovation.
"In order to meet the needs of the community, we knew we had to expand the facility," said Shawn Patch, YMCA chief executive officer. "This new expansion completes our goal of being a full-family facility."
In 2000, the Northwood YMCA underwent its first renovation, which added 30,000 square feet to the existing structure. The building's total square footage now is 55,000.
"We felt that we had outgrown the 2000 expansion after 90 days and began planning our present project then," Blenco said.
The Northwood location now includes a birthday party room to help facilitate the two to three birthday parties that are held on site every weekend.
Also, spinners will offer real-life biking. The spinning room is dimly lit with rope lighting and images of either a bike trail or a bike race project on the wall during classes.
The children's fitness center is specially designed with smaller equipment and less weight. The exercise machines, which are supervised by YMCA employees, are designed for children aged 8 to 14.


Cost $1.4 million to expand FYI: The new YMCA What: Northwood YMCA, located at 5201 NW 34th St.
Members: Approximately 5,900 Size: 55,000 square feet, including 13,000-sq.-ft. expansion
Recent expansion cost: $1.4 million Grand opening: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today

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