By Nina Aghadjanian
Outlook Valley Sun
The Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA (CCY) just unveiled a freshly restored Young Family Gymnasium, the addition of three pickleball courts, spiffy new women’s and men’s locker rooms, and an updated membership lobby and multipurpose room.
The CCY, which is under the YMCA of the Foothills “umbrella,” has been operating at limited capacity since the end of June 2020 when it created a 4,000-square-foot covered outdoor “airnaysium,” where members could safely work out. The increased downtime and reduced traffic from the pandemic presented the opportunity for some overdue upgrades and additions.
Last week, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the locker rooms, which alone received $1.7-million worth of improvements, including two new Swedish dry saunas. That revamp is considered Phase 1 of the CCY’s “A Time to Build” campaign — a three-phase, $7-million expansion that aims to provide greater physical and financial accessibility to the community. The locker rooms also mark the location’s first major project since “Renew the Resource,” a $3.5-million capital development campaign that was launched in 1992.
“It brings me so much joy to renew this wonderful resource for our Y members and our larger community. The Young Family Gymnasium has long been a source of recreation and well-being for so many in our community. Now with this reinvestment into this resource, we can ensure its continued benefit for the next generation of health seekers,” said Vince Iuculano, who was named CEO of the YMCA of the Foothills last July after former CEO Tyler Wright left for a YMCA in Portland.
The Young Family Gymnasium, a 6,000-square-foot space, underwent a $23,000 restoration complete with a full sanding, resurfacing, painting and sealing of the 16-year-old maple wood court. That process is required every five to 10 years; however, the gym floor was installed in 2005 and hadn’t received a major rehabilitation until now.
The latest gym design not only features three pickleball courts, but also an updated regulation-sized basketball court complete with NCAA and high school three-point lines, two junior high-sized courts, as well as posts for volleyball and gymnastics.
“We really wanted to take this ‘down time’ to not stick our heads in the sand and hide, but to serve our community [and] do as much as we possibly could to create a great member experience,” Iuculano said.
When it came to beautifying the gym, Iuculano — who has been involved with the Y since 1996 — had a special idea: rededicate it to the Young family and spotlight the Raggers Program. So he had the Young family name and the eight-sentence Raggers Creed imprinted on the floor. Raggers, a worldwide personal development program for campers and staff, is a longstanding tradition for the Y and until now, its creed wasn’t displayed anywhere in the facility.
“We’ve always believed that the Y is a tremendous asset for the communities that we serve, not just La Cañada, but the entire Foothills community stretching out to Sunland and Tujunga,” said Scott Young, a former Ragger himself who’s currently serving his ninth year and final term as a member of the board of directors for the YMCA of the Foothills. “What we’re most pleased about is that the Y has continued to live by its mission — putting Christian principles into practice to help others….We’re not just a gym. We’re about mind, body, spirit and the Y has lived that, which I think the whole family’s proud of.”
Since 1960, the Youngs have been instrumental in the Y’s development, starting with Scott’s parents and longtime Y volunteers Phil and Doris Young. After Phil passed away in 1988, Doris with her sons and their families – Scott and Karen Young and Phil Jr. and Liz Young – decided to honor his memory by sponsoring the gym renovation via the Y’s “Renew the Resource” campaign.
The Young brothers have followed in their parents’ footsteps, serving the Y as volunteers and board members. Their mother Doris turns 96 this June and lives in the same La Cañada Flintridge home that she and late husband Phil built 61 years ago.
“What makes the YMCA so special is that we’re led by people like the Young family and that really helps us abdicate our mission. Without their financial and leadership support, it would be really difficult for our Y to have the impact that it does,” said Iuculano, who held several leadership roles with the nonprofit before becoming CEO.
The family’s matriarch, Doris, had an opportunity to recently tour the lovely facility.
“It’s just great,” she said. “It’s very nice.”
A favorite of the newly restored Young Family Gym is sure to be the pickleball courts, which opened earlier this week. After gathering positive anecdotal feedback from members and conducting his own research, Iuculano thought it wise to carry CCY into the future of sports by installing three of them. The courts are open, by reservation, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Pickleball has been around since 1965 and is a smash in the U.S., with its popularity ballooning in recent years. In 2020 it grew to 4.2 million U.S. players, a 21.3% surge from 2019 according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s 2020 Pickleball Participant Report.
For the uninitiated, pickleball is similar to tennis but is played with a ping pong paddle-like racquet and a perforated plastic ball. Accessible for all ages, it’s particularly appealing for those who struggle with mobility because the center net is 34 inches high and the court is less than half the size of a tennis court.
Even before the pandemic, CCY was hard at work maximizing its interior. In January it transformed one of six racquetball courts into a personal training space that members “absolutely love,” according to Iuculano. The outdoor fitness center it created in June remains open but members can still use the equipment inside by reservation only.
Last year, the Y’s annual Prayer Breakfast was forced to move online and the popular Fiesta Days Run was canceled altogether, but CCY found new ways to serve the LCF community. It hosted multiple blood drives with American Red Cross and Huntington Memorial Hospital, respectively. Partnering with Glendale Community College, it also started a monthly mobile food drive — a project Iuculano says at times leaves Y volunteers with tears of joy. Additionally, it addressed the isolation caused by the pandemic by launching a pen pals program to check in on senior members via phone calls, letters, texts and online workout classes.
CCY’s overhaul isn’t finished yet. Still to come is the remainder of its “A Time to Build” expansion, first proposed in 2016. Phase 2 includes building a 38-foot-tall parking deck on the front parking lot. The two-story garage would add about 70 spaces, including more handicapped parking spots closer to the building to improve accessibility for senior citizens. Phase 3 will see the replacement of the old east wing with a new three-story building to expand CCY’s program offerings and resources.
“We wanted to build a YMCA for the future that can really encompass inclusion and be a world-class experience,” Iuculano said. “We felt that by addressing the accessibility issues of our YMCA, that’s going to help us meet that plan.”
He says plans to start Phases 2 and 3 are undetermined as CCY is awaiting more funding and approval from the city. They must also navigate timing of the Foothill Boulevard Link Bikeway & Pedestrian Greenbelt Project — a half-mile installment of bike lanes, walkways and green space from just west of LCF’s Leata Lane to Hillard Avenue — which is expected to start this year.
The pandemic led to an 80 percent drop in membership across all the YMCA of the Foothills locations, largely because all but CCY closed last year and remain closed until further notice. At CCY, in particular, pre-pandemic check-ins averaged 1,200 daily. At the height of the shutdown that number dropped to 200 and that figure has rebounded to currently around 500 members daily.
CCY went back indoors on March 29 at 10% capacity. Though the facility was allowed to operate at 25% shortly thereafter as Los Angeles County hit the orange tier, Iuculano says it stayed at the former level to be safe and ensure that members were well cared for. The CCY recently increased to 25% occupancy.
“Our mission calls us to serve people,” Iuculano said. “So we looked at the pandemic as disappointing, but it didn’t mean we could ever stop serving the community. Organizations that took advantage of this downtime and wanted to be creative and innovative in their approach are organizations that I believe are going to thrive coming out of this.”