Vineyard YMCA expanding

The project still has several steps to go before it can be a reality. 


The YMCA plans to expand at its Vineyard location to include a track, more space for indoor sports like pickleball and basketball, as well as meeting areas.

The multiple-floor expansion would include nearly 38-thousand square feet of space.

The plans were publicly revealed during a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School committee meeting on Monday evening. The high school is the Y’s landlord. 

Martha’s Vineyard superintendent Richie Smith said Jill Robie-Axtell, YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard executive director, had approached him about expanding west toward the outdoor basketball court and expressed a possibility of the construction work encroaching onto a deed restricted area, although the building footprint would not expand into the area. 

Robie-Axtell said this expansion was an effort 15 years in the making. 

“When the Y was originally designed in the late 2000’s — 2007, 8 — there was a gymnasium that was originally designed to be on the end of it, where the basketball courts are now, [where] the asphalt courts are,” she said. “So, those asphalt courts were always a placeholder for what was yet to come. Also, when the Y was built the teen center was not built.”

The YMCA was built in 2009, during the Great Recession, so not all of the money could be raised to build an expanded facility. Robie-Axtell said a “core” YMCA was built with a swimming pool, workout area, and the lobby area with the Alexandra Gagnon Teen Center following a year later. 

“It was then the hope that the gymnasium would probably [be built] in the next couple of years,” Robie-Axtell said. “The Y board, as well as myself, wanted to wait until we had a few years of financial stability before we embarked on anything more,” she said, although expansion plans were slowed because of COVID and other issues. “Here we are 15 years later,” she said.

A photo Robie-Axtell showed of the YMCA summer camp showed children sitting in a tented area on the asphalt. If it is heavily raining, the children would be taken to “the base,” which is the lower level of the teen center. “One thing that COVID did do is [show] even more need for space to put these kids,” she said. 

A rendering of the expansion showed what the children would be able to use instead: a recreational facility that can accommodate various sports, such as soccer, basketball, and pickleball. 

“We are going to probably put up curtains so the space can be divided,” Robie-Axtell said. 

On the floor above the multisports facility would be an additional wellness center with a track. Other planned areas include a dance studio, spin studio, conference room, classroom space for after school programs, and more. Robie-Axtell told The Times the multi-floor building would be around 38,000 square feet. 

“The whole idea of this concept was to be multipurpose,” Robie-Axtell said. “Year-round, recreational space for not only summer people but year-round people. Not only children, but older adults, high school students. We see two or three hundred high school students a day at the Y these days. Between the teen center, the food truck, and the workout center, a lot of the kids here are headed to the Y after school.” 

Robie-Axtell said the project is “very close” to being presented to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. 

“The facility fits within the deed restriction,” she said. “We’ve done it strategically that way, but the engineers and architects were concerned there would be some construction vehicles that potentially could encroach upon that deed restriction, that we’d need to have to allow for [emergency vehicles] if need be.” 

Encroachment came up when the YMCA was originally built, and Robie-Axtell said the issues, such as replanting grass and replacing trees, showed that any encroachment would only occur while construction took place. 

While there are still steps to be taken, Robie-Axtell said she was “cautiously optimistic” about the project progressing. 

Committee chair Robert Lionette said that the layout is what was presented to the committee 15 years ago, which was approved at the time. While the layout was modified, the overall building footprint was “identical.” Since there was a “standing approval,” Lionette suggested the project committee’s land use subcommittee can act as an overseer for the project. 

When committee member Skipper Manter expressed concern over the deed restriction, Robie-Axtell said there was an agreement that as long as the building itself did not infringe upon the area, construction or emergency vehicles could go around it. 

Smith said the deed is long and the exact language is difficult to find, but the school’s counsel, Nancy Campany, could be asked to look over the document if deemed necessary. 

“Things change over 15 years and my concern to the question is the impact of that property,” Manter said. “Other things have expanded over there, especially in 15 years.” 

Robie-Axtell said the YMCA does not want to greatly impact the area. Additionally, traffic studies were done in preparation for the commission. She later said there would be no more room for the YMCA to expand if this expansion is completed. 

Lionette said the school’s legal team should go through the deed to make sure the mentioned covenant is there. 

Shertzer said that while she knows the YMCA will be able to pull off the project well, around half of the individuals on the committee were not members 15 years ago. She said it was a matter of the committee doing its due diligence. “We, as a committee, have been accused of being a terrible landlord for the land that we have and I, being on [the] land use subcommittee, don’t want to own that,” Shertzer said. “I want to support this, but I want to do it in the appropriate path, that’s all.” 

The committee voted 6-0 to allow the YMCA to expand into the deed restricted zone during construction contingent upon legal counsel’s advice. Manter abstained from voting. 

The land use subcommittee will review the plans at the YMCA on Monday, March 13, at 4:30 pm.


  1. I didn’t read about additional parking, the lot was filled this morning at 9AM, how does the YMCA plan to receive additional cars? The addition sounds teriffic but parking is already over burdened, what’s the plan?

Comments are closed.