New YMCA size, amenities depend on fundraising

Amanda Parrish * Delaware
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Plans for a $26 million YMCA with turf fields, more aquatic amenities and a focus on teen programming were approved by the Middletown town council last month, but the result might not be what the plans show.

David Halley, Middletown Family YMCA executive director, said what they build will be entirely dependent on how much fundraising they do.

“The more we build, the more we can invest back into the community and into the facility,” he said. “Some of that depends on the partnerships we get and what we can bring to the table.”

DeborahBagatta-Bowles,YMCA of Delaware president, said they will need to fundraise to afford everything they want, about $12 million. If they don’t raise enough by the tentative 2021 groundbreaking, they will have to decide which are most important. 

“Sometimes we have to reduce the size of the total building, or we might do it in two phases,” she said. “We will build the most needed things first, like the pool, the fitness center, and the childcare room and space. We can add on as time goes on.”

Halley said he doesn’t know exactly what priorities will be. He said they are hoping to get the same technology and tools people see at other YMCAs, like the ones in Dover and Bear.

As planned

The YMCA is expected to be a two-story, 66,000 square-foot building at 202 E. Cochran St. near Silver Lake Park, less than a mile from the existing YMCA on North Cass Street.

The plans presented at the town council meeting showed it with a full fitness center, a 15,000-square-foot aquatic center, turf fields and STEAM teen programming — science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

YMCA sent out a community survey to about 300 people, asking if they wanted a full-size YMCA and what they would want in it.

“People requested lots of programs and services for children and teenagers because there are a lot of families in Middletown,”Bagatta-Bowles said. “Some requested things like healthy living classes, services and of course they want a pool. We don't have an indoor pool in Middletown yet, so that will be a part of the project when it's built.”

The YMCA has a standalone outdoor pool near Silver Lake Park.Bagatta-Bowlessaid the plan right now is to keep the existing pool outside and build another indoor pool for swim lessons, water exercises and other programs. 

“That pool gets a tremendous amount of use during the summer. People love the outdoor pool,” she said. “It's great because it's right next to the outdoor pool. It will just flow with the new building.”

Town growth

The Middletown Family YMCA opened in January 2017, but it was not meant to be permanent. According to a previous Middletown Transcript report, YMCA of Delaware expected to replace it in three to five years, given the town’s population growth.

“About three years ago we did a feasibility study looking at population growth, projected population growth, the types of family that were moving in, and [Middletown] really was a match for the kind of services we want to provide.”Bagatta-Bowles said.

Halley said full-size YMCAs provide a great community centerpiece that bolsters the town.

“We've seen YMCAs help fuel economic development,” he said. “They improve healthy living, they strengthen academic results and bring people from all walks of life together.”

It is expected to bring about 350 jobs, a mix of part-time and full-time positions. 

“[The YMCA] will provide workforce development, especially for first time job seekers,” Halley said. “The majority will be part-time, and this will be anything from membership to aquatics to childcare to facilities to sports. There's just a wide variety of opportunities we will have available.”

Going into the summer the YMCA will employ more people for camps and the outdoor pool.

Membership rates 

Halley said membership cost should not change. He said it should be comparable to other full-size YMCAs in Dover and Bear.

Right now, community members can get a family membership for $59 a month for the Middletown YMCA. There is a membership option to use all YMCAs in Delaware. It is $103 a month for a family of two adults plus children, the same as at the Bear YMCA. If people sign up with the Dover YMCA, it’s $98.50 a month.


Bagatta-Bowles said they are working with the Delaware Community Foundation, corporate partners, banks and philanthropists for donations first. She said they are in the “quiet phase” of the campaign right now, meaning they are looking for people who are willing to make large monetary gifts. 

“We are looking hard at local philanthropists in the Middletown community who really want to see this project built,” she said. 

Those who make large donations can put their name or a family member’s or friend’s name on YMCA spaces, such as the pool, fitness center or the welcome center,Bagatta-Bowles said.

“They might name it in memory of someone, after their family, their business practice or local business,” she said. “We get about 20,000 visitors a month, and it would get their name out in the community all day every day.”

Bagatta-Bowles said there will be plenty of chances later for those who can't make substantial gifts.

“Not everyone is looking for those naming opportunities,” she said. “They just want it to be built, and they want to make a gift.”

Financial assistance

Bagatta-Bowles said the money they raise is for the building and for financial assistance. A YMCA of this size offers about $500,000 in monetary help every year.

She said about 3,000 people use the Middletown family YMCA through their diabetes prevention, cancer recovery and after-school programs. She said there will be plenty of scholarships for their after-school programs run by the Appoquinimink School District

“There are opportunities for folks to come and take advantage of those programs at no cost or a reduced cost,” she said. “That's really what we are excited to bring into Middletown.”