And hundreds of people who got a sneak peek of the facility at 5585 Rockbridge Road on July 7 were wearing them.
“This is simply beautiful,” gushed Linda Denson. “I am so excited I can hardly stand it. Our babies have a safe place to be and our young men will have a place to get some mentoring.”
DeKalb County and YMCA officials opened the facility on Saturday to give residents a taste of what’s to come when the $20 million YMCA opens for business on Aug. 16.
The offices and meeting rooms were empty of furnishings, but the indoor and outdoor pools were open and working overtime in Saturday’s 90-plus degree weather.
Denson, who lives about four miles from the new Y on Rockbridge Road, dug out her purse to show a reporter her new YMCA membership card.
“I am a charter member,” she said. “I joined two weeks ago, but I have been watching it go up for a year.”
Winston Myers, who was named executive director of the center in April, said the community has embraced the 57,000-square-foot facility right from the beginning.
“We have seen nothing like this before,” he said. “From day one, the phone has been ringing off the hook. They want to know how they can be part of this.”
Myers said that community enthusiasm has translated into one of the largest opening numbers ever.
“We expect to open with 600 members on Aug. 16,” he said.
Myers, who was at the South DeKalb YMCA for 12 years as associate, then executive director, said the Wade Walker Park YMCA will have exceptional programs and customer service and exceptional wellness support and delivery.
“This is not a hope,” he said. “This is not a promise. This is not speculation. It is a pledge.”
The new Y is a collaborative venture between DeKalb County government and the Metro Atlanta YMCA. The county provided the land in the 25-acre park and paid to build the facility.
The Metro YMCA’s $4.2 million share of the design and construction of the Wade Walker Park Y came from the sale of the Bransby Outdoor Y in Lithonia for that amount to the county.
The county is leasing the facility to the Metro YMCA for $1 a year for 30 years. The lease is renewable for another 20 years. Under the lease agreement signed in December 2008, the YMCA will operate, maintain, repair and provide insurance and other costs for the facility.
DeKalb Parks & Recreation Department will be the Y’s landlord.
After seeing the zero entry pool, the popular outdoor pool and water play area, the spacious locker rooms, supersize gym, and indoor walking track, Sharon Britt, who lives less than a mile from the facility, said she was just plain excited.
“Just look at the pool,” she said. “It’s very impressive. I may have to switch my membership over here.”
After hours in the outdoor pool, DeKalb Chamber President Leonardo McClarty had to almost wrestle his 5-year-old daughter, Sage, out of the water.
“It’s a beautiful kiddie area,” he said. “She has been taking swimming lessons this summer so she just wants to be in the water.”
McClarty, who lives in Tucker, said the amenities at the new YMCA were sorely needed in the community, which had to travel to the South DeKalb Y in Decatur or East Lake Y in Atlanta.
“Whenever you have something that families can do together, it’s a plus,” he said.
Delores Singh, who visited the facility with her friend Felechia Garrison, said if the YMCA had been there a couple of years ago, she might not have moved from Redan Road to Rockdale County.
“This is beautiful,” said Singh. “It’s just wonderful.”
Garrison said she loves the facility but urged the county to erect a pedestrian crossing across busy Rockbridge Road to the park so that there will be no accidents involving children.
“Kids are going to see this,” she said, waving at the brightly colored water features. “They are going to want to come across the street. Other than that, everything is fabulous.”
Veronica Stephenson, whose sons Bruyce, 14, and Mark, 10, were enjoying the outdoor pool, said she loved everything she saw on Saturday. But she was most impressed that the community came together to bring a facility of that caliber to Stone Mountain.
The YMCA features a full basketball court with a suspended running track around it, instructional lap and whirlpools and a sauna, a 4,000 square-foot wellness center with aerobic and weight equipment, day care and teen centers, an educational wing with ceramic area and a kiln, dance and aerobic studios and teaching spaces for computer and arts and crafts, and multipurpose community meeting rooms.
DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, who lives within walking distance of the new YMCA, said that the county built a first-class intergenerational facility and that he is proud that it is opening on his watch.
“I count it as one of my accomplishments,” said Ellis, who is running for re-election to a second term. “I take credit for not only getting it moving as a commissioner but for getting it completed as CEO.”
District 4 Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton, who also lives nearby, said that the project was stalled for funding when she replaced Ellis as the district’s commissioner.
Barnes Sutton, who also is running for re-election, said she and District 5 Commissioner Lee May and former District 7 Commissioner Connie Stokes allocated $1 million each from their districts’ share of the Park Bond funds, approved by voters, to get it going.
The county owns the land and the building and the YMCA will pay all operating costs, which will save the county $2 million a year.
“By year 11, the savings in operation costs will pay for the building,” Barnes Sutton said. “It’s just a great partnership that made this happen.”
Through the partnership with DeKalb County, residents in ZIP codes 30058, 30083, 30087 and 30088 are exempt from paying joining fees but must pay their monthly membership dues.
For more information, call 678-781-9622 or visit www.ymcaatlanta.org.