Kennett Y makes splash with grand reopening

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New facilities include warm-water pool with waterfall, arts studio

By Kathleen Brady SheaManaging Editor, The Times

A group of children lined up on Friday to assist with the ribbon-cutting as the Kennett Area YMCA celebrated its grand reopening.

A group of children lined up on Friday to assist with the ribbon-cutting as the Kennett Area YMCA celebrated its grand reopening.

For the past four years, the Kennett Area YMCA has bested about 2,700 facilities nationwide in member satisfaction – an impressive accomplishment that delights its high-energy, royal blue-shirted staff.

So it’s not surprising that the enthusiasm level reached new heights on Friday with the ribbon-cutting of the Y’s expanded facility: 25 percent more space and amenities such as a warm-water aquatics center, state-of-the-art exercise equipment, even an Imaginarium, an arts studio complete with a kiln.

Besides the addition, a sparkling makeover of the existing space included refurbishment and reallocation, in some cases taking down walls.

Sharon Morrison, the Y’s business manager and one of Friday’s tour guides, said the construction didn’t really generate any obstacles for the staff while the crews were working on the exterior. But when the construction moved inside about nine months ago, it offered some challenges that everyone was happy to see end, she said. “It turned out so well,” she said. “Everyone’s really excited.”

The Kennett Area YMCA, voted tops in nation in member satisfaction for past four years, is also celebrating its expansion.

The Kennett Area YMCA, voted tops in the nation in member satisfaction for the past four years, is also celebrating its expansion.

And with good reason. A new room dedicated to yoga and Pilates creates a serene environment while the warm-water aquatic center beckons youngsters with a mushroom waterfall. A child-care play area rivals a top-notch preschool, providing a perfect venue for parents who want to cycle their way to better health on bikes that accommodate heart-rate monitors.

Denise L. Day, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of the Brandywine Valley, said numerous people deserved thanks for making the improvements happen, especially the fund-raisers, led by W. Thomas Musser; the generous donors, which included Exelon Generation, the Longwood Foundation, Aaron Martin, the Tri-M Group, LLC, and Michael and Kathy Walker; and “the blue shirts: the Kennett Y staff.”

Musser, who also chaired the 1996 capital campaign, said he remembered when the Y, which he called “a special place,” had to use neighborhood pools for its programs before its building took shape in 1998. Musser’s grandson was one of the children who helped cut the ribbon, helping fulfill the Y’s mission of outreach to people of all ages.

The Pia family, owners of Kaolin Mushroom Farms, offered another example of multi-generational involvement and community commitment. Michael Pia serves on the Brandywine YMCA board; his son, Michael Jr., serves on the Kennett board; his grandchildren helped cut the ribbon; and his wife, Nancy, was the creative force behind the Imaginarium, made possible by the family’s donation.

Nancy Pia said she is eager to help people unleash their inner artist, a process that began for her when her four children, who are now adults, dubbed her “artistically challenged” when they were growing up. Pia said she disagreed with that description and began taking courses as an adult. She now has a permanent exhibit of her found-objects creations at the Delaware Children’s Museum.

Pia said she envisions the Imaginarium as a room that will inspire old and young to pursue a variety of artistic endeavors. “I think creativity is so important,” she said. “And we’re all creative in our own way.”

That kind of exuberance makes Doug Nakashima, the Y’s executive director, grateful that he relocated to the area nine months ago to take the job. Addressing the audience at the ribbon-cutting, he expressed thanks for being embraced by the community. More than 11,000 children and adults participate in programs at the Kennett Y, which run from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., he said.

A look at the Kennett Y’s packed schedule boasts health and wellness regimens from tai chi to Zumba, childcare, swim lessons, and afterschool programs. John Featherman, a member of the Brandywine YMCA board, said he believes the member fee schedule is one of the Y’s biggest assets. “It takes into account a person’s ability to pay,” he said, citing a generous scholarship program.

Steve Trusco of Avondale said he and his wife have been members of the YMCA since 1993, and he was happy to see the expansion. He also said he wasn’t surprised that the Kennett facility had won top honors for member satisfaction four years in a row. “There absolutely a vibe here from the staff that’s positive,” he said. “There’s a real community feeling.”

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