A $3.5 million YMCA that opened today in Schenectady, N.Y., is another step toward bringing businesses back downtown, officials said.
The new 28,500-square-foot facility inside Center City in the heart of downtown replaces the cramped, antiquated Y on lower State Street near Schenectady County Community College.
The bottom floor of the new Y has more than 50 cardiovascular machines, free weights, aerobics room, spinning room, sauna and steam rooms, locker rooms and an NCAA- regulation-sized basketball court.
Upstairs is a children’s play area, cafe and teen center. Still to come: a day care in a separate building downtown, once a location and funding have been secured.
Having those services in a centralized location within steps of office buildings, restaurants and other attractions will be another selling point for landlords trying to fill space, said David Buicko, chief operating officer at Galesi Group.
Galesi Group, a commercial real estate developer in Rotterdam, is building 50,000 square feet of Class A office space in Center City next to the new Y, part of a $30 million-plus upgrade to the facility.
“We’ve got a full-service community,” Buicko told about 200 people gathered on the gleaming hardwood floors of the basketball court for today’s grand opening. “It’s only the beginning.”
The main entrance to the new Y is at the rear of Center City, off the Franklin Street parking lot.
It was built inside what was for years an ice skating rink, and then an indoor soccer field with orange-carpeted concrete steps for bleachers. The place looked run-down and was oddly configured, with retail storefronts on the concourse level.
All of that is gone, and hard to picture when standing inside the new gym, with its high ceiling, crisp court lines, six basketball backboards and blue-cushioned walls.
Assemblyman James Tedisco, a former standout high school and college basketball player, said he looked forward to taking shots from the corners of the court. At the old Y, a small running track suspended above the court obstructed shots from the corners, forcing players to take more of a line drive shot than an arc.
Tedisco said he hoped the new Y will encourage people to exercise and fight the obesity epidemic among children.
The new Y has about 1,500 members. The goal is to double the number in a year, said David Brown, president and CEO of the Capital District YMCA.
Mayor Brian U. Stratton was among those impressed with the new facility.
“Look in the locker rooms and you might think you’re inside a swank health club,” Stratton said.
Stratton and other Y supporters had originally hoped to build a new, $8 million facility on Nott Street, at the site of what was once a deteriorating shopping center.
But the plans had to be scaled back when fund-raising was slower than anticipated. The location was also changed when the Golub Corp., owner of the Price Chopper supermarket chain, decided to build its new headquarters on the site, which is called College Park.
Wally Graham, chairman of the Y’s fund-raising campaign, said the project’s scope changed a lot since he first took on the role, but he was pleased with the results.
“It’s another big, big plus for downtown Schenectady,” said Graham, board chairman at SI Group, a worldwide chemical manufacturer based in Niskayuna.
Graham said he had agreed to lead the fund-raising campaign on the condition he get to take the first shot on the new basketball court.
He was admittedly rusty when he took a pass from Tedisco and, with TV news cameras rolling, threw three air balls and missed a lay up. He then made a lay up under the basket, and got a round of applause.