MYSTIC — Donors to the $7.5 million expansion and renovation of the newly named Naik Family Branch of the Ocean Community YMCA were invited on Wednesday to a preview of the new space scheduled to open Sept. 30.
Guests drove around to what was the back of the building where the new entrance faces the Mystic River. Inside the two-story building, which added 12,000 square feet to the Y’s previous 27,000, the lobby boasts a soaring atrium with a fireplace and coffee bar. An adjacent community room will be available for parties and meetings and has large glass windows that look out on a terrace that will be furnished with Adirondack chairs.
The 7,500-square-foot wellness center on the second floor has a sprawling open floor plan that will hold cardio and weight-lifting equipment. Instead of wall-mounted televisions, each piece of cardio equipment will have its own TV. While exercising, members can also see the Mystic River through the large windows that wrap around the space.
Also on the second floor are the yoga center and a wellness space. They will each have temperature and light controls as well as specialized cushioned flooring. The addition of an elevator will make the building more accessible.
The “childwatch” room, on the first floor, will be equipped for the needs of children aged 6 months to 7 years. When children are checked in, they will receive a wristband identifying who their parent or guardian is and where that person will be exercising in the building. The YMCA offers drop-in childcare for members for up to two hours.
Also on the first floor is the teen center, designed for kids ages 8 and up as a place to do homework, play games and hang out together. The space, which directly accesses the gym, will be equipped with four computers, a gaming center, and a three-in-one table that converts to pool, air hockey or ping-pong. In one corner will be a kitchenette, and in another couches for relaxing will be set up near the windows.
Also located on the first floor is the new spin studio, which is 50 percent larger than the previous space and will have 30 percent more spin classes on the schedule than was offered before. Soundproofing material will be installed on the walls.
The facility, previously named the Mystic branch of the Ocean Community YMCA, has been renamed in honor of Sekhar and Archana Naik of Mystic, who donated $1 million toward the project. The Naik family challenged the community to a $200,000 match and the community surpassed the match by contributing $225,000 to the project.
Amid ongoing construction, Mystic YMCA members have shown themselves to be good sports. All of the cardio, weight machines and spin bikes were moved into the gym in October and a giant curtain divided the space in half so that basketball and a few classes could continue while the rest of the building was undergoing renovations. Some yoga, Pilates and senior wellness classes were taught at Masonicare. Members also used the Westerly-Pawcatuck and Arcadia Y locations in the interim. Once the new fitness center is ready, all of the equipment will be emptied out of the gym and the floors and walls will be refurbished.
The progress on the space was impressive, said YMCA member Michael Pernal, of Mystic, who had attended a hardhat tour a few months ago.
“I had no idea it was going to turn out this terrific. Before it was just huge space, the outside girders were up, and we were standing up there, like on a platform and none of this had taken shape, so they did a wonderful job,” he said. “And what’s great about it is the community support that we got from so many people.”
YMCA President and CEO Maureen Fitzgerald said the community showed tremendous support and flexibility during the project.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our donors, the community and the members who stayed with us and even went to Westerly while we renovated this place,” she said. “It wasn’t the best or easiest of conditions, but the members kept coming and I can’t thank them enough.”
More staff members have been hired for the expanded facility, including four new directors and 20 part-time employees, she said.
Once the new space is open and the gym has been refurbished, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held in November.