The Family Y of Greater Augusta hopes to harness the power of the Savannah River at its newly opened downtown branch.
The grand opening for the newly named Riverfront YMCA will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday in the former site of the national Science Center’s Fort Discovery on the city’s Riverwalk.
“Because of the fact that it’s got a beautiful river out there, we want to do things around the river and in the river,” Family Y President and CEO Danny McConnell said. The Riverfront Y is looking for partnerships to teach kayak classes or hold 5K runs around the river.
“Those kinds of things you can program to make this place special and different from anything else we’re doing,” McConnell said. “We’re going to take full advantage of this beautiful place.”
The Y shares the building with a service center run by global information technology company Unisys, and a Richmond County Sheriff’s Office substation.
The downtown Y had owned a four-story location at 945 Broad St. since 1923. It closed the building in 1982, donated it to another fitness facility in 1997 and re-acquired the building in 2010, renaming it the Family of Downtown Augusta.
But in recent years, upkeep of the aging building had become more costly and time-consuming.
The Y sold its building to Evans-based tax-preparation software company TaxSlayer last June.
The new Riverfront Y actually has been open since the day after Christmas, McConnell said: “We had a 5:30 class right after opening that first morning.”
It’s also grown its membership. Since the first of the year, the Riverfront Y has taken on more than 30 new members, adding to its total of about 1,100. The goal is to add 350 more by the summer of 2019, McConnell said.
The Riverfront Y covers about 11,500 square feet, and about 3,000 more square feet of outdoor space for member use. There is no pool or basketball gym, as there was in the old facility. But because the Y moved its administrative offices to Claussen Road, it allowed what McConnell called “a larger wellness component” in the new facility.
“The fitness center is larger, the group exercise class space and so forth. It’s going to be an indoor-outdoor workout facility,” he said. “Our members will be able to take full advantage of a walk or a jog on the Riverwalk, then they can come inside to do what we do. I think our members are going to love that.”
Members also will have access to more parking. While on Broad Street, the Y had no dedicated parking spaces it could own or lease. Now, the Riverfront Y has 65 spaces in an indoor parking deck, and agreements for its members to use hundreds more city-owned and privately-owned spaces adjacent to the facility.