It’s fun to stay at the YMCA—especially the new Y in Havertown. The $22.5 million, 80,000-square-foot facility opened in October, but not without complaints about its location and the closing of the Main Line Y in Ardmore. We got the scoop from John Flynn, president and CEO of Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA.
MLT: Why build a YMCA in Haverford Township?
JF: In 2009, we commissioned a market study to determine where we weren’t serving our demographic well enough. We tested seven locations, and Haverford/Havertown came in first—by a lot. The study showed that there were 250,000 people not using YMCA services.
MLT: How was Havertown chosen?
JF: We needed eight acres, and there’s not a lot of property available in that service area; anything that existed was prohibitively expensive. Even this property was—the owners wanted $6 million and we got it appraised for $1.3 million. We were very far apart on the deal. That’s when Haverford Township came in and took the property by eminent domain. Still, it was only five acres. So we went to PECO and arranged for a 99-year lease for the three acres their power station sits on. That’s how we found the eight-acre parcel.
MLT: Locating the facility on Eagle Road has raised concerns about increased traffic congestion. How has the YMCA responded?
JF: There’s a new traffic signal at our facility’s entrance and a new intersection has been developed. It was a requirement from PennDOT that we do that.
MLT: How does a traffic light remedy an increase in vehicles?
JF: The statistics we have don’t tell us that congestion will prohibit us doing business. Our numbers don’t say that it’s a terrible situation. We have no concern for problematic traffic; we’ve proven that with the studies we’ve given to the township. I’ve been there at every time of day. Although it does get busy on the way to and from work, it’s no more of a problem than any other place we operate a YMCA.
MLT: Why close the Main Line YMCA? Why not just renovate it?
JF: The building in Ardmore is 50 years old and doesn’t meet the standards a YMCA needs to best serve the community—or ADA (Americans With Disability Act) standards. It was impossible to improve that building, because it would be cost prohibitive and because Lower Merion Township wouldn’t allow us to adapt it the way we needed to. We did hope to keep the Main Line YMCA open to provide satellite services and daycare, and house administrative offices. But Lower Merion wasn’t interested in allowing that zoning, so we had to abandon the site altogether.
MLT: What’s different about the new YMCA?
JF: The swimming pools alone are a huge improvement. There are three: a zero-grade entry pool, a four-lane, 25-yard warm water pool; and a six-lane, 25-yard lap pool. That gives our members seven times the water capacity than at Main Line. And speaking of members, we’ll be able to serve many, many more. Main Line had 3,500 members. We think Haverford will have 20,000 when fully enrolled. To accommodate them, we have more than 300 parking spaces, as opposed to the 75 or so at Main Line.