New Family Y opens in Aiken County with help from church, hospital

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The basketball courts at the new Family Y of Aiken County aren’t just basketball courts. They’re a sanctuary. The gym’s juice bar isn’t just a juice bar. It’s the café where visitors to Cedar Creek Church West will stop for coffee on Sunday mornings.

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Marilyn Tomeo makes a balloon sword for Layden Torres, 4, at the new Family Y in Graniteville.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Marilyn Tomeo makes a balloon sword for Layden Torres, 4, at the new Family Y in Graniteville.

About 1,000 people got their first glimpse of the new mixed-use facility at a grand opening celebration Saturday afternoon.

The 40,000-square-foot building was planned, designed and opened in partnership with Cedar Creek Church, a multisite church with campuses in Aiken and Batesburg, S.C., and Aiken Regional Medical Centers, which operates a health information center in the new Y.

“It’s one of the very first – if not the first – time in the country that a church and a Y and a hospital have designed and opened a building together,” said Danny McConnell, the CEO and president of the Family Y of Greater Augusta. “It’s as much their building as ours.”

The $10 million facility includes soccer and football fields, a gym, locker rooms with saunas and an elevated walking track over the basketball courts, where Cedar Creek West will hold Sunday worship services.

By April, an outdoor water park will open, featuring a 120-foot water slide, a lazy river, a pool for toddlers and a competition pool. It’s the second phase of development on the 32-acre tract of land at 621 Trolley Line Road. A third phase will include an indoor pool.

About 2,100 Family Y members were transferred to the new location. For the past three years, the Y rented a facility about a mile away. It closed Tuesday so staff could transition to the new facility.

Half of the YMCA was paid for through contributions from the community, with Cedar Creek investing $1.2 million. The remaining $5 million was funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture-financed loan.

Starting Wednesday, the medical center’s clinic will offer cholesterol screenings and blood sugar checks by appointment. Blood pressure checks, body fat analysis and weight measurement will be offered for free without appointments.

“People are interested in taking care of themselves,” said Shirley McIntosh, Aiken Regional’s marketing and community outreach manager. “You don’t have to be a Y member to participate. Anyone can have access.”

TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY the church will meet at the Y, with one service at 11 a.m. before moving to two services each Sunday in February.

“They’ll come in and set up 600 chairs and transform this place,” said Catie McCauley, a branch executive for The Family Y of Aiken County.

Curtains will block the view of treadmills in the gym. Younger kids will meet for “wee worship” and “kidz church” in the children’s activity rooms, where parents heading to the gym can drop off their kids to play Xbox Kinect, sing karaoke or build on a giant Lego wall.

“Most church buildings sit empty all week long. Nobody is at the YMCA Sunday morning. It’s a perfect fit,” said Wes Holbrook, the campus pastor of Cedar Creek West, which attracts about 400 to Sunday services.

There are about 2,700 YMCAs in the country, and 1,500 of them have some sort of partnership with churches, which will often rent space for Sunday gatherings. Cedar Creek and the Y’s partnership, however, is new.

“There has never been, as far as we can tell, a church and a Y that have partnered to the extent we have,” Holbrook said. “I always say our campus is a church of the Y, not just a church in the Y. We see this as a platform for ministry. We want to encourage our members to be involved in the life and culture of the YMCA.”

After learning the Family Y would build a new facility near the intersection of Trolley Line Road and Robert Bell Parkway on the outskirts of Graniteville, church leaders approached McConnell about sharing a parking lot with a new church facility. Since 2009, Cedar Creek West has met at the University of South Carolina Aiken Convocation Center.

“He came back at us and said, ‘Why not share a building?’ ” Holbrook said. “That took vision. It makes sense. We have similar values.”
While there aren’t immediate plans to replicate the mixed-use model at other Ys in the area, McConnell said he’s hearing from other groups across the country who want to know “how we made this work.”

“I think this is the future,” he said. “As money has gotten tighter, it’s a great way to stretch a few dollars. We think this is a win-win for everybody and a win for the community.”

LEARN MORE

Find out more about Cedar Creek Church West at cedarcreekchurch.net. Get more information about the Family Y in Aiken County at thefamilyy.org.


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