EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 9, 2013

Plaistow may welcome YMCA

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — The YMCA of the North Shore may expand into New Hampshire.

Chris Lovasco, chief operating officer of the YMCA of the North Shore, said he has been in talks with Rockingham Athletic Club to purchase the building at 175 Plaistow Road and convert the athletic facility into a YMCA.

“Plaistow is not currently in any of our designated service areas,” Lovasco said. “It’s a place where we feel a full resource YMCA is needed.”

Lovasco said the possibility of the YMCA coming to Plaistow has been discussed for a few years.

“It’s been in discussions since the merger of Northeast Family YMCA in Haverhill and YMCA of the North Shore in 2009,” he said. “Plaistow is an area that doesn’t have great access to a full YMCA.”

The closest YMCA facilities are in Haverhill, Mass., Londonderry and Lawrence.

Lovasco wouldn’t say how much it would cost to buy the building, but did say the YMCA was prepared to make an offer.

The Rockingham Athletic Club is a 55,000-square-foot facility, owned by Stephen Drelick. The building is going up for foreclosure auction May 22, according to a representative from Paul McInnis Inc., the company conducting the auction.

But Lovasco said he didn’t anticipate the auction to be an obstacle.

Drelick could not be reached for comment.

The club remains open. It has four basketball courts and a two-floor fitness area.

“The owners are in the process of signing the paper and the YMCA is supposed to come in and take over,” fitness director Wes Landon said. “The owner wants to move on and they don’t want anything to do with it anymore.”

If the sales agreement is signed, YMCA officials hope to add a swimming pool.

“A full aquatic center is something that isn’t anywhere in the community,” Lovasco said. “We think that could be a natural fit.”

The YMCA has reached out to Plaistow officials to gauge their support of any potential facility. Selectmen voted to write a letter to the YMCA, supporting the facility.

“The town has worked successfully with the YMCA in Haverhill for many years,” Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said. “There are an extraordinary number of ways that a YMCA could help support our residents with healthy and active lifestyle programs.”

Recreation director Christina Cruz said the potential of a YMCA in Plaistow would only complement the town’s existing programs.

“I don’t think it would have any (negative) effect at all,” Cruz said. “This is something where we could collaborate with them.”

Lovasco said there were still several hurdles to be cleared, including authorization from YMCA of the USA, the national resource office for the nation’s YMCAs.

Lovasco said there was no timeline of how soon the YMCA could open its doors in Plaistow.