AUBURN, Maine — A 150-year-old institution here has major growth plans, including a new $15 million fitness center in Bates Mill No. 5 in Lewiston and a $4.6 million Outdoor Learning and Education Center in Auburn.
“How can the YMCA stay relevant?” Steve Wallace, CEO of the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, said to a reporter during a recent tour of the YMCA’s main building on Turner Street in Auburn.
Wallace, a former marine wearing a tracksuit, exudes enthusiasm as he shakes hands with a man on a stationary bike and yells “hello” to professional wrestler Tony Atlas, who is working out in the weight room. Walking near the day care center, he points out a window at the barbed wire over the Androscoggin County Jail next door.
“If we do our job here, they’ll never make it over there,” he said, referring to the confidence-building exercises, first-aid training and education kids get at the YMCA.
Wallace, who is in his fifth year heading the YMCA, has plans for a family fun night that will run 24 weeks during the winter and a 13-week medical explorers course for kids to get an in-depth look at what it’s like to work in a hospital. Overall, he’s focused on making the YMCA a key part of the Lewiston-Auburn community.
The Bates Mill plan
The centerpiece of his plan is moving into a new, state-of-the-art facility in Bates Mill No. 5.
That plan is still subject to the YMCA and two other organizations signing a lease, and architect and developer Thomas Platz purchasing Bates Mill No. 5 from the city of Lewiston. Platz told the Bangor Daily News in October that he is close to buying the mill and signing the leases, and expects both to be done before the first of the year.
The first phase of the YMCA build-out, about 50,000 square feet, will be a full health, wellness and fitness center. The ribbon cutting is expected in 2023. The current building in Auburn will remain in use as a community youth center.
The second phase, which depends on additional funding, will include an infant and toddler learning center.
Looking over architectural plans drawn up by Platz, Wallace points to the gymnasium, which will occupy 18,350 square feet on the first floor of the mill. It will have four sets of bleacher seats totaling 460 seats, a basketball court and locker rooms.