Norfolk's The Y on Granby quickly surpassing expectations

Posted to: Norfolk Norfolk Norfolk Community

Expectations were high for The Y on Granby when it opened its doors nearly five months ago, and the $8 million family fitness and activity center hasn't disappointed.

"In terms of membership and usage, we have met and exceeded our goals," said Anthony Walters, the center's executive director.

As of Sept. 30, The Y on Granby boasted 663 memberships, which equates to about 1,658 individuals. Walters hopes to secure 1,000 memberships by year's end. The clientele is diverse in terms of age, race and socio-economics. The YMCA center draws members from throughout the city.

"That's what I was dreaming about - a place where Norfolk can come together," Walters said.

Of the more than 600 memberships, 43 percent receive financial assistance, which is offered on a sliding scale based on need. That number is eventually expected to level off at about 50 percent, Walters said.

But membership doesn't tell the whole story. The 33,000-square-foot center, located in the Park Place neighborhood, continues to expand its programming based on user demand.

In June, the Y's Zumba classes met twice weekly with an average of 25 participants. They now are offered five days a week and average 75 members.

A physical-education program for homeschoolers started with four families and grew to 24 within 30 days.

In terms of usage, Walters said that during the summer, the Y on Granby rivaled that of other, long-established centers, including the Hilltop Y in Virginia Beach.

The center currently is open eight hours daily, but because of usage, soon may need to expand to 12 hours.

Walters believes that the center addresses community needs and offers convenience, but that its greatest asset is its 70-member staff.

"We stress top-notch, excellent service. Members always tell me, 'We love your staff,' " Walters said.

"We want to have that reputation."

The only area where Walters said he initially had a concern was center security, but the Y has had no problems. "I think the community has really taken ownership of the center," he said.

Walters said while The Y on Granby is a great community resource, it can't meet all outreach goals alone.

"We want to be a hub where collaboration can occur," he said. "We hope to partner with other organizations to meet community needs."

The center recently teamed with art-education majors from Old Dominion University to offer art instruction to elementary and middle school students.

In 2014, there are plans to partner with city elementary schools and offer subsidized or free swim lessons.

Other programs Walters would like to implement include a summer day camp, youth and adult sports, including a dodge ball league, and expanded arts and cultural opportunities.

"We'll continue to be responsive to community needs and find creative ways to use our space," he said.

Lia Russell, 446-2336,lia.russell@pilotonline.com

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