North Austin YMCA to open doors Dec. 1

The North Austin Community Recreation Center, once it opens Dec. 1, will serve not only members but also the community at large, offering a teen room, community area and garden where residents can learn how to grow and use local produce.

"We just think that all YMCAs, no matter where they are located, should be a hub for the community," said James Finck, CEO for YMCA of Austin.

The 37,000-square-foot facility, located at 1000 W. Rundberg Lane, will be run by the YMCA of Austin in partnership with the City of Austin. Non-YMCA members will be able to utilize the center, including renting the community room that Finck said can handle large functions or neighborhood meetings.

"This is going to change our neighborhood," he said.

Liz Hansbury, senior program director at the center, said the child care center has a room for infants and a separate room shared by toddlers and children up to age 8. The center has an outdoor area for children to play while their parents use the facility. The area will have a sand and water table and an area where children can use sidewalk chalk.

"The majority of folks don't want to drop their kids off. They want to do something as a family," she said.

A major feature of the rec center is its use of natural light and incorporating windows, including in the pool area. Hansbury said this is a major improvement from the former North Park YMCA that closed Oct. 31 at 9606 N. Lamar Blvd. and didn't have any windows.

"You don't think about it being parkland in North Austin, but when you look out those windows, it looks like you're looking at a park," she said, pointing to the windows in the group fitness room.

The second floor overlooks the basketball and volleyball court where the center will begin its winter basketball league and also has access to the terrace where members can take outdoor tai chi or yoga classes.

The aquatics area has a four-lane lap pool, heated instructional pool for lessons and a hot tub.

Hansbury said another benefit to the community will be two swim safety programs. One is Project Safe, which will teach first-graders from area schools about water safety and provide them with swim lessons. A second program called Swim Safe will allow staff members to teach children how to swim at their own apartment complexes, Hansbury said. She said these program will help reduce the higher risk for drownings among children that the North Austin area has.

"There's not a lot of emphasis on learning to swim," she said.

Students may also participate in an internship program where they will learn to swim and go through training to become lifeguards, Hansbury said. Additionally, several clubs will be available to students, including Youth in Government and the Leaders Club.

"It's a fun, safe hangout, but also one where there will be additional educational opportunities," she said.

In January, work will begin on a 10,000-square-foot community garden that is part of the city's Art in Public Places program. The Sustainable Food Center will assist with providing programming such as teaching people how to cook using local produce and how to start a garden at home, Hansbury said.

Danielle Shores, who grew up in North Austin and now works in child care, membership and youth programs at the YMCA, said the center will bring access to programs such as those that teach participants how to eat healthier.

"They can now help themselves," she said.

By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.