While the Central Delaware YMCA held its groundbreaking on Saturday for a new gymnasium and enlarged fitness center, many of the spectators present seemed more excited about what's going to be outside after construction is finished — more parking.


With spectators huddled under a tent in the parking lot while rain poured outside, Central Delaware YMCA staff and community officials kicked off the groundbreaking for the facility’s much-anticipated expansion.

The situation itself emphasized how much the additions are needed.

If the YMCA had a gymnasium — like every other full YMCA facility in the state — then the groundbreaking ceremony could have been held there on Saturday, said Mike Graves, president of YMCA of Delaware.

It’s hard to keep up the typical YMCA programs in the winter without the use of a gym, he said, adding that it’s not just used for basketball games but also for group exercise, meetings and dances.

Rick Gould, executive director of Central Delaware YMCA, said the planning for the expansion has been going on for a decade. Central Delaware YMCA purchased the adjacent property to the south in 2009 and completed the major fundraising last year, so now with a tentative completion date of December the end is in sight.

“We’ve talked about the expansion at Dover for a long time, and it’s great to see it here — maybe a little overdue — but still great,” said Linda West, board chair of YMCA of Delaware.

Central Delaware YMCA Board Chair Jim Hutchison called the $2.6 million project laser-targeted because of how it addresses immediate needs.

“It’s no secret that we are trying to improve our membership retention and make sure we are adding members here,” he said. “When a new member comes in and they have trouble parking, the fitness center is full or there is no gym to play basketball, or at 5 p.m. in the evening at the key time for a multi-purpose program they can’t get in because the room is full … it’s just not a good thing.”

A nearly 12,000-square-foot gymnasium will be added to the south side of the building, Gould said. On the north side, a 3,000-square-foot expansion will enlarge the fitness center and add a classroom.

But what might excite members most of all is the 80 additional parking spaces that will bring the total number of spots up to almost 200.

Graves said the Central Delaware YMCA gets a lot of pressure from members about inadequate parking.

“It’s frustrating if you make the decision to come to the Y and you can’t find a space,” he said. “You do that a couple of times and you get pretty discouraged.”

Hutchison also made a point of emphasizing how the YMCA will be able to expand its youth and adult programs with the extra space.

“We’re so much more than just a place to come work out,” he said. “This is a non-profit, mission-based organization that has served the community since I was a youngster.”

Email Jayne Gest at jayne.gest@doverpost.com