Celebrating 15 Years: Reuter YMCA Offers Classes for All

Reuter Family YMCA member Jim Jones, shares his workout goals with the Reuter Y’s executive director, Jill Ibbotson, left, and Theresa Gang, director of sales and engagement. The rock-climbing wall on the left is more visible thanks to new lighting that was recently installed.

The Reuter Family YMCA will celebrate its 15th anniversary this month. The Reuter Y opened its doors in April 2003, joining a handful of other businesses in Biltmore Park at the time. Under the leadership of current president and CEO of the YMCA of western North Carolina, Paul Vest, the board of directors finalized discussions with Biltmore Farms to construct the new facility. Prior to Reuter’s opening, the YMCA of WNC included the downtown Asheville Y and a Youth Services Center on Beaverdam Road.

The Reuter Family YMCA was built thanks to a $7 million capital campaign, including a $2 million gift from the Janirve Foundation and a $1 million land donation from the George Cecil family and Biltmore Farms. The facility was named after Jeannette and Irving Reuter, who started the Janirve Foundation.

From its opening in 2003 to now, the Reuter Family YMCA has grown significantly. According to Jill Ibbotson, executive director of the Reuter YMCA, there are currently over 11,000 members, up from about 2,500 when it first opened.

“We are especially excited that we have grown the number of members receiving scholarships from 3 percent to 10.” It is a goal of the YMCA, Ibbotson said, to be inclusive, not turning away individuals or families because of the cost of membership.

Ibbotson said the biggest challenge facing the Reuter YMCA is spreading the word about how much it has to offer.  “Everybody knows about swim lessons and youth sports,” she said, “but not as many know this year we offered a Spanish language class for students, for example.” The Reuter Y currently offers 70 different programs.

Since the Reuter Y opened, group exercise classes have increased significantly. In 2003, 30 weekly classes were offered ranging from step aerobics to yoga, taught by 10 instructors. As membership expanded, so did class selection. Members now may choose from 100 group classes each week taught by 40 instructors. Classes range from 5 different types of yoga classes to kickboxing and Zumba.

To accommodate the growth in classes, and the new fitness equipment used in those classes, ‘Studio A’ and the ‘Mind Body Studio’ were opened. Ibbotson said they continue to improve the facilities, citing the recently completed new lighting on the rock climbing wall.

Members make good use of the facility; Reuter receives on average 30,000 visits per month. Jim and Meril-Lee Jones are among the members who frequent the Reuter Y a few times a week. “I’ll do my cardio workout and then a half hour of weights,” the 75-year-old said, but added “in-between I’ll spend about a half hour talking.” Beyond being a pool and fitness center, the Reuter Y is known as a social gathering place with a well-designed lobby and complimentary coffee.

Theresa Gang, director of sales and engagement, said membership continues to grow in part due to population growth in the area, but also because of the variety of fitness classes available, expanded workout areas, and the addition of new programs. An added benefit is reciprocity with almost 2,000 YMCAs nationally. Gang said the Reuter Y is not just a place to hop on a treadmill. “Starting with our staff at the front desk who welcome members when they come in, we are a hub for individuals and families in the community who want to stay active and healthy.”

The Reuter Y has grown its programming over the past 15 years to support the evolving needs of the community. New programs have been added for families and teens, the aging population, and those with special needs. Teen-specific classes like ‘Teen Hip Fit’ and ‘Teen Strength and Development’ are taught during after-school hours.

Speaking of the teen classes and new teen leaders club, Ibbotson said, “We wanted to serve the teens who were coming in after school – making sure they knew they were welcome.” Through the teen leaders program, students plan their own volunteer projects with guidance from a Y staff member.

Included among the ‘Population Health’ programs are LiveSTRONG at the Y, serving cancer survivors and their families; a diabetes prevention program, and ‘Moving for Better Balance,’ among several others.

The YMCA of western NC began in Asheville in 1889. It was officially organized by R.U. Garrett at the Central Methodist Church to promote Christian values. It is now one of the area’s leading nonprofits. The YMCA of western NC includes 7 YMCAs, dozens of program sites and YMCA Camp Watia.

The Reuter Family YMCA is hosting a celebration reception with cake for the public next week on Monday, April 16. Drop by from 4-5:30 p.m. Guests may also purchase a 15th anniversary T-shirt available, as well. Come visit with Y members and staff and watch a historical video of the Y being built. The YMCA is located at 3 Town Square Blvd. in Asheville.

By Mary Koppenheffer