YMCA’s 39,000 square-foot expansion project under review

A nocturnal rendering of the proposed expansion of the YMCA. —Courtesy of FM Architecture

The proposed expansion of the Island’s YMCA, now under development of regional impact (DRI) review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, is set to include a nearly 40,000-square-foot, multipurpose indoor recreational facility. 

When first built 14 years ago, because of financial strains from the economic recession, the Vineyard Y included only what YMCA CEO Jill Robie-Axtell calls the “core” of the planned design — the lobby, wellness center, pool, and locker rooms. The following year, the teen center was added.

Plans calling for the construction of a gymnasium or field house were further postponed following issues with wastewater, and then the global pandemic. 

With around 12,000 members and guests, ranging in age from 6 months to 100 years old, and daily check-ins of anywhere between 7 to 1,000 people a day — not including the hundreds of high school students registered for afterschool programs and activities — the YMCA is struggling to keep up with demand. 

“The need has never been greater,” Robie-Axtell said.

“The Y is a fabric of community partners,” she said. “Yes, we have people who come and get on the treadmill and go home. But we also have a lot of organizations that depend on the Y, and the spaces within the Y, to be able to serve their constituents and their populations.”

The field house will serve as a year-round, family-friendly indoor gym space with a suspended track, rather than an arena solely for spectator sports or competitions. The multi-floor facility will also include a dance studio, cycling studio, conference room, and other, smaller multiuse spaces that can serve as meeting areas for anything from ballroom dance and group exercise to a summer camp refuge on a rainy day. 

With the proposed project will come the expansion of a number of existing programs, in addition to the development of a handful of new ones, such as wellness classes for underserved age groups, community workshops, and off-season activities. 

At nearly double the size of the existing facility, the three-level project calls for excavation, which will cut down on expansion of the site’s footprint. 

Commissioners will be conducting a site visit within the next week, and will continue a review of the proposal, including its wastewater management plans, traffic impacts and parking layout, landscape and stormwater designs, energy efficiency and site lighting at future meetings. The public hearing will remain open until Dec. 7.