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Oakwood YMCA moving along, but no pool ‘bubble’ in the works

POSTED: January 16, 2014 11:50 p.m.

Two Oakwood YMCA buildings front Railroad Street downtown. The Y is 3 years old, the signs are new, and expanded programs are planned.

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The Oakwood pool “bubble” may have burst, at least for now, but the Georgia Mountains YMCA is starting its third year at the branch, with plans for more programs.

“Everything is going well. Our relationship with the city is strong and getting stronger,” said David Houston Jr., who oversees the Oakwood Family branch at 4101 Railroad St.

After long talks with city officials, the Gainesville-based Georgia Mountains YMCA began programming in January 2012 at the Oakwood branch, operating out of two buildings in City Park and — as it had been before the agreement with the city — a swimming pool inside the park.

Last year, fueled by a $10,000 donation, the YMCA made improvements to the pool, primarily setting up lanes in the pool for competitive swimming.

Officials had talked about a final round of improvements calling for a removable, inflatable enclosure, enabling year-round indoor swimming. Former Oakwood Director Jon Poole said he hoped the equipment to make that happen would be installed before fall.

YMCA officials have since reassessed, not necessarily dismissed, the idea.

“When you put a bubble in place, that provides close to year-round access to the pool, but it also has year-round maintenance, staffing and other issues,” Houston said. “I would say that it is on pause for the moment.”

Otherwise, things are going swimmingly at the downtown branch.

“We are continuing to try to grow the programs we can offer,” Houston said. “We’ve got the wellness center and the pool in the summer, but we like to think outside that block where we’re located. We want to serve the community more.”

The branch started its first youth sports program, the soccer-oriented Little Kickers, at nearby Oakwood Elementary School in September. Based on that program’s success, the branch plans to start Little Hoopers, which teaches basketball to youngsters, at the school in February.

“These are not true games, per se, and I think one of the best aspects of (youth sports) is we encourage parent participation, so it ... has great bonding potential where parents can interact with the kids,” Houston said.

The branch also has started a martial arts program. It’s slow going for now, but that once was the case at the J.A. Walters Family branch in Gainesville, where the program “is now flourishing and doing fantastic,” he said.

Also planned is a Zumba class for beginners and older adults that “is not as physically intense” as the Zumba fitness classes now offered.

“If that goes well, we’ll add it to our regular rotation,” Houston said.

Generally, the Oakwood branch “is designed for a quick, efficient workout. We’re not terribly large, admittedly, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” he said.

Many patrons “aren’t comfortable with the crowds” of a larger facility, he added.

“My mindset is constantly looking for ways to grow and expand services, and expand the coverage we are helping. If we see an opportunity to create a program (elsewhere in South Hall), we would love to be able to do that.

“But we want to do the baby steps. We’d rather do it right and get it in stone, and then start expanding. We don’t want to expand rapidly and either harm us (as) a whole or harm the community that we’re trying to serve.”

Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said that, so far, the city’s partnership with the YMCA is going well.

“They’re doing a great job, and the membership is up significantly,” he said. “We plan to continue on and see even more membership increases this year.”


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