By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — It’s one of the biggest recreation facilities in the region and it’s in the midst of a complete makeover.
The former Rockingham Athletic Club at 175 Plaistow Road was officially taken over by the YMCA on Dec. 12.
“We want to create a Y that Plaistow wants,” executive director Tracy Fuller said. “We want to have town hall meetings and listen to what the community needs.”
Fuller, who also serves as the director of the Haverhill YMCA, said more than 300 new members have joined the YMCA since the official takeover.
“I’d say it’s about a 80 to 20 percent mix between New Hampshire and Massachusetts residents,” Fuller said.
The club absorbed the 150 members from the Rockingham Athletic Club. It is also opening its doors to any Haverhill YMCA member. The YMCA bought the club from Rockingham Athletic Club owner Stephen Drelick late last year.
“To have this opportunity is exciting for us,” operations manager Ryan Allen said. “Typically, everyone is looking for space, but here we have plenty for everything.”
YMCA officials said they thought Southern New Hampshire was an area that was not well serviced by their organization. In addition to the Haverhill YMCA, the closest YMCAs to Plaistow are in Londonderry and Exeter.
The 55,000-square-foot facility offers four full-sized athletic courts, two weight rooms and a yoga room. There is also more than an acre of outdoor fields, an outdoor volleyball court and a playground. But more may still be on the way.
“A pool is a possibility,” Fuller said. “If we hear from the community that they want us to create that opportunity, then we will look into doing that.”
Fuller said to add a pool would require them to expand the building.
“We have plenty of space to do that,” she said.
The pool would be the only public swimming pool in Plaistow.
Yesterday, gym members were excited about the possibility of a pool.
“That would be incredible,” said Chris Pagliccia, 19, of Plaistow. “It’s a great workout, it’s great for recovery and a place to cool off.”
Pagliccia and his friend Eric Karolkiewicz, 25, of Salem, were former members of the Rockingham Athletic Club. They said they have noticed a difference since the YMCA took over.
“It’s a lot more organized and everyone’s friendlier,” Karolkiewicz said.
Jeremy Murphy, 15, of Danville, has also noticed the change.
“It’s just a lot cooler here now,” he said. “There are more activities and it’s a better time.”
Allen said they have already added the YMCA touch to the facility. Basketball leagues from both Haverhill and New Hampshire are already playing there. The YMCA is leasing more fitness machines and is hoping to add some in the coming months.
They are also working with Timberland school superintendent Earl Metzler on the Pollard School’s after-school program. The program is currently run by the YMCA of the Southern District out of Exeter.
“We’re fortunate that the superintendent and the YMCA of the Southern District are working with us,” Fuller said. “We feel this could be a backup location for that program.”
Fuller said the response from the community has been great.
“We’ve heard a lot of positive feedback,” she said. “We are excited to be a part of this community.”