Nine years after New Haven Fitness opened at 900 Chapel St., a new branch of the YMCA is taking its place.
The Elm City YMCA opened on Jan. 7 in downtown New Haven near the New Haven Green. Though New Haven Fitness staff and facilities will remain, the location will now be branded as the Elm City YMCA. Over the coming transition months, the 7,000 square-foot property’s services will be expanded to provide health and wellness programs to the community.
“Both organizations share similar philosophies,” said Tyler McCauley, executive director of the Elm City YMCA and the former co-owner of New Haven Fitness.
The Elm City YMCA will be the second branch of the non-profit in New Haven, supplementing the New Haven YMCA Youth Center, located on Howe Street. Despite its large facilities, the Howe Street branch does not serve adults, said David Stevenson, president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA, the umbrella organization for all of the YMCAs in the area.
“If you asked people in New Haven, they would scratch their head and ask, ‘Is there a Y in New Haven?’”, Stevenson said. “There was no real YMCA for adults.”
The new branch’s location will make the gym accessible to more New Haven residents, said Christian Engle, senior vice president and Chief Operating Officer of CCCYMCA.
Once the transition period is complete, the gym will have updated strength and cardio training equipment, as well as more classes that reflect current trends in fitness, McCauley said. Members of the Elm City YMCA will also have access to the pool located at the New Haven YMCA Youth Center.
The gym will provide health and wellness programs to New Haven residents to address health issues such as diabetes and obesity. The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program will be expanded in New Haven through the new branch, additions that were previously infeasible for New Haven Fitness due to a lack of resources, McCauley said.
Diabetes and obesity were identified as significant challenges in New Haven in Data Haven’s 2013 Greater New Haven Community Index, but a 2009 Data Haven report showed that diabetes self-management education programs — similar to those offered by the YMCA — produce positive results. Engle noted that the program has been effective in the local communities to which they have already reached out.
The Elm City YMCA will also be partnering with local community organizations, including Yale-New Haven Hospital and United Way, to coordinate services.
Members of the former New Haven Fitness have automatically become members of the Elm City YMCA, which also gives them access to other YMCAs. The YMCA will also be able to provide need-based financial assistance for memberships, McCauley added.
“This will definitely make things more accessible for a lot of people,” McCauley said.
The new YMCA is targeting various groups for membership purposes, including people who work in downtown New Haven, McCauley said.
McCauley is not new to the YMCA — his grandfather, Duke Faubert, was the president of the Greater Providence YMCA and is the namesake for the new Health and Wellness Center at the Elm City YMCA. When Faubert passed away a year ago, McCauley realized at his funeral that the YMCA lacked significant presence in New Haven.
“I said to myself, ‘This is a community that really needs a Y,’” McCauley said.
In the first week since its opening, the new YMCA has retained 550 members from New Haven Fitness, and 10 new members have joined. Stevenson said he is more concerned with long-term retention than temporary bursts of enrollment. He added that many new members in January are temporarily motivated by New Years’ resolutions, and the challenge is making sure they stay on.
Current advertising has been limited to pre-existing members of the YMCA and New Haven Fitness, Engle said. Before marketing to the general public, they will have to renovate and rebrand the space in preparation for an official ribbon cutting.
The YMCA came to New Haven in 1859.