Downtown Y Getting New Home, New Name by Jan. 1
By Gary Kauffman
When the New Year rolls around, the Downtown YMCA will have a new home and a new name.
Danny McConnell, president and CEO of the Family Y, made the announcement July 17 in the lobby of Discovery Plaza, home of Unisys and formerly Fort Discovery, on Reynolds Street.
“We chose to have this press conference in Discovery Plaza because as soon as the renovations are done, this will be our new home,” he said.
Unisys occupies half of the first floor and the Y will take over the east half of the floor. McConnell promised an aggressive renovation schedule. Services in the current facility will end on Dec. 31 and the new facility will open on Jan. 1, 2018.
After announcing the new location, McConnell had one more surprise – a name change. When the facility opens in January it will be known as Riverfront YMCA.
“Augusta’s riverfront has always had an outstanding look,” McConnell said. “With Cyber University and all the dollars now being invested in the downtown, we believe Augusta’s riverfront will be the front porch to it all.”
The new location became necessary after TaxSlayer purchased the building on Broad Street that has housed the Y for the past six years. The Y decided to find a new location because renovation costs to the current building would have exceeded $5 million.
Katie Duncan, vice president of marketing for the Family Y, said four or five other venues “within a stone’s throw” had been considered before settling on Discovery Plaza.
After renovations in Discovery Plaza, the new YMCA facility will house a 5,800-sq.-ft. cardio and weight training area with a wall of glass overlooking the Savannah River and a separate large facility for group activities. The new location also opens up possibilities for outdoor activities and possibly using the river. However, there will not be a pool.
“This exciting indoor/outdoor multi-faceted fitness space will offer some new ways to stay fit,” McConnell said. “There will be great options to enjoy the beauty of this river. I can see many new programs offered around, in and on top of the river.”
With the growth of business in the downtown area, the new Riverfront YMCA will increase its focus on corporate memberships, which has already started.
“Both the owner of this facility and Unisys are making commitments to their employees that will set the pace for many of the downtown employers to step up and help their staffs become healthier,” McConnell said.
“This is a win-win-win situation for Augusta,” said Zack Daffin, chairman of the board of directors for the Family Y. “TaxSlayer gets to move downtown and they’ll be adding jobs; our members get to move into a brand new exciting facility and get the amenities they want; and the city of Augusta gets another shot in the arm for the invigorization of the downtown.”
The new facility also enhances the area for those who choose to live downtown as well as work downtown, according to Mayor Hardie Davis Jr.
“We find ourselves in an environment where we have a live-work-play society right here in the heart of Augusta,” he said.
Currently YMCA staff offices are in the downtown building, but will not move to the new facility. Plans are to move the staff offices to the area of River Watch Parkway near exit 200 of I-20. A facility there will be more central to the various YMCA branches in the Augusta-Columbia County area.
Finally a Place to Park
One of the key additions to the new downtown YMCA facility in Discovery Plaza will be parking. The Y members will have access to the building’s parking garage. The current facility had no parking available other than on the street, which frequently created issues for Y members. Katie Duncan, vice president of marketing for the Family Y, said adequate parking means employees of downtown businesses could even work out during their lunch hours.
“It’ll be easier to come and get a quick workout and get back to work,” she said. “You won’t be driving around looking for a parking space.”
The new facility is also handicap accessible.