My Turn: YMCA move will not leave Gastonia’s west side without options

Teenagers having fun at recreation center

By Michael Peoples, Gastonia City Manager

Michael Peoples headshot
Michael Peoples
Gastonia City Manager

A recent post on the Facebook page “Life in Gaston” mourned the loss of the Central YMCA and the role it has played as a familiar, safe, gathering place for youth and adults in surrounding neighborhoods and others on the City’s west side. The writer emphasized the loss to neighborhood youth who’ve met there for athletics and how adults, especially senior citizens, who have adopted the Central Y as a safe haven will lose their convenient spot for friendly get-togethers. “Where will these folks go now for recreation and camaraderie,” the writer asked, “especially if they can’t afford the membership at the new location or have a way to get there?”

No doubt there are many other citizens who are torn between nostalgia about the Central Y and excitement about all of the new activities and programs that the Robinwood Road location offers. While the move may leave an empty building, it won’t leave the surrounding neighborhoods or our citizens who depended on that facility for recreation and relaxation without options.

In fact, for some time, representatives of the City’s Recreation Department and its community centers have been meeting and partnering with other organizations to provide programs and services for youth and adults in the community and to fill gaps that the Y’s move might create. The City operates four community centers within three miles of the Central Y location: the Adult Recreation Center, next door to the Central Y; Erwin Center, less than a mile away; T. Jeffers Center, about two miles away; and Phillips Center, approximately three miles away.

Older adults sitting on chairs playing volleyballThe Adult Recreation Center offers a variety of programs and activities, especially for adults and senior citizens. Some of those activities include games, athletics and exercise classes, instructional programs, social activities like a dine-around club, line dancing, and events like the recently scheduled Star Dusters Big Band Dance. The Erwin Community Center is equipped with a library, gymnasium, activity and game rooms, outdoor basketball court, playground, multi-purpose athletic field, walking track, swimming pool, and a new splash pad.

Staff at the City’s community centers partner with organizations like the City Fire and Police Departments, the West Gastonia Boys & Girls Club, the Gaston County Library, Caromont Health, Gaston County Health, private non-profit agencies, and the Bethlehem Dream Center as well as other churches to provide programs and services that meet the needs of citizens of all ages as well as our diverse population.

Recreation and education

If you haven’t been to one of the City’s five community centers (including Bradley Center), you should visit one or check out the City’s website to see what the centers offer. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the scope and relevancy of the programs and activities, many of which we wouldn’t have the resources to offer if it were not for the active participation of our community partner organizations.

In addition to our regular athletic programs, with our partners’ help, we offer such programs as after-About nine very young children playing basketballschool study halls, creative art programs, a leaders’ club, computer classes, card game clubs for adults, cooking classes, babysitting and first aid classes, and making healthy choices seminars. Programs designed especially for youth help them set and achieve goals, deal with peer pressure, enhance self-esteem, learn how to show respect and accept responsibilities. Many of the centers also offer life-skills classes such as personal finance and resume preparation. And these are just a few of the programs available at the City’s community centers. Our programs and services are designed to meet the needs of the community and they evolve and change as the needs do.

Similarly, a short half-mile, 10-minute walk away from the Central Y is the West Gastonia Boys & Girls Club, with another array of programs and services available to neighborhood youth. In addition, the Boys & Girls Club is adjacent to the City’s newest park, the Optimist Club Park, which features a playground, walking trail, butterfly garden and picnic area. This park was created specifically to provide an additional recreational outlet for the nearby neighborhoods.

The Boys & Girls Club offers after-school programs, homework and tutoring programs, and athletics as well as arts and crafts and other classes. To maximize the opportunities available to youth participating in the Boys & Girls Club activities, the City’s T. Jeffers Center, two miles away, partners with the Club on fun activities like NFL-oriented events and bike rodeos. This summer Club youth will participate in free swim safety and instruction workshops held at the Erwin Center pool.

Community Center open houses

To familiarize residents with the programs, services and events offered by the City’s community centers, each of the City’s five community centers will hold an open house in January. We encourage our citizens to visit one, several or all of them. We think you will be impressed, not only by the scope of programs and services offered, but also by the professionalism of our staff members. All of our center supervisors have earned four-year college degrees in a recreation-related field. Our other center staff members also have training or certifications in associated areas. During the open houses, we’ll ask visitors to fill out surveys to let us know what additional services they’d like to see the centers provide.

We also think you’ll be pleased with the attractiveness and cleanliness of the facilities, the available parking and parking lot security, including bright LED lighting and security cameras. Additional security protocols, much like those in place at the Y and similar commercial facilities, are also in place to help our guests feel safe and secure. The schedule for the open houses is:

  • Erwin Center, 913 N. Pryor St., Jan. 6, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Jeffers Center, 121 Hartman St., Jan. 8, 1-6 p.m.
  • Phillips Center, 2031 Echo Lane, Jan. 20, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Bradley Center, 1200 N. Modena St., Jan. 22 and 24, 1-8 p.m.
  • Adult Recreation Center, 519 W. Franklin Blvd., Jan. 29, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

More information on the open houses as well as listings of programs and services offered at each center can be found on the Parks and Recreation pages on the City’s website.

For citizens living near the Central Y who would still like to take advantage of the Y’s services at the new location but don’t have transportation, the City is adding the Robinwood location to the City’s bus route and a bus shelter at the stop.

Together, the YMCA, The Gastonia Boys & Club, the City, and many other community organizations and churches are working diligently to ensure that the recreational and inspirational needs of our community are met. While the programs and services at the City’s community centers might not replace every program that the Central Y offered, there are a wealth and variety of programs that meet the needs of youth and adults in the community within the neighborhoods near the Central Y location as well as throughout the City. Working in partnership with other organizations, we will continue to look for ways to improve and expand what we offer for the benefit of all of our citizens.