YMCA celebrates 10 years with Wellness Center

Apr 1, 2024

On the second floor of the Dartmouth YMCA a hay bale claw hangs from the tall farmhouse rafters and an electric fireplace is encased in the building’s original brick — hidden elements of the room’s history, which spans over 100 years, according to Rochelle Whalen, Membership and Program director of the Dartmouth YMCA.

A dairy farm, a restaurant and a children’s museum all at one time could be found in this very room. 

Now, and for the past 10 years, the room has been home to the Y’s Wellness Center, which first opened up on April 1, 2014.

The Dartmouth YMCA originally only offered camp programs and a limited set of fitness events after opening in the former Gulf Road museum in 2000. After several years, a study was commissioned which found residents and YMCA members wanted to see a fitness center at Dartmouth’s branch.

And in the last five years of this facility’s history, a lot has happened — including a global pandemic. 

Whalen said when the Wellness Center first opened, the Dartmouth YMCA had approximately 500 members. By the five year anniversary, membership had surpassed the 1,000 mark. However, the pandemic slashed those numbers back down to around 750, but membership has been slowly on the rise ever since.

She said membership currently sits at just over 900. “I'd love to hit that 1,000 mark again because we essentially — when we put the Wellness Center up here — we doubled our membership in five years.”

In the last five years, focus has been on updating and adding equipment to the gym, such as a pec deck, a preacher bench, new weights and an additional bike.

Whalen said members don’t have to worry if they aren’t familiar with the various machines available as staff can provide assistance a majority of the time.

At the far end of the Wellness Center room, a space that was once filled by a desk has been cleared to give members extra space for stretching.

In an adjoining room on the second floor, eight bikes are available for when the YMCA holds its spin classes — which are always filled, she said.

On the first floor, a room, which was once split by a curtain, now has a dividing wall. One room is set up for child care and the other room is where the YMCA can hold some of its classes, including yoga, Pilates, Zumba and posture classes.

Whalen said the wall, which was installed last year, gives members a more quiet and peaceful space, especially for activities like yoga. The room also has some LED lights to add to the ambience of those sessions.

Westport’s Paul Taveira, who has been a member for the last five years, said he enjoys the quiet of the Wellness Center gym. 

Taveira said before, he attended a “real musclehead gym” — this gym he feels has a “different atmosphere.” 

“It's more laid back,” he said. “So it's good for somebody like me getting older.”

He added how there’s rarely any wait time for equipment as well.

Whalen said those who aren’t a member may be surprised to know that “it's really very, very much a family.”

So much so, Whalen says she’ll often hear people say it's “like they're working out at their home gym.”