EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 14, 2013

YMCA still looking for OK in Plaistow

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — PLAISTOW — The YMCA is looking to move into Plaistow, but there are still hoops to be jumped through before it is a reality.

Chris Lovasco, chief operating officer of YMCA of the North Shore, said the Y has a purchase-and-sale agreement with Rockingham Athletic Club at 175 Plaistow Road. The goal is to convert the gym into a YMCA and to add a pool.

“The process is still playing out,” Lovasco said. “Ultimately, the YMCA of the USA would have to approve this location.”

The process includes a due diligence period, during which nearby YMCAs would have a chance to give their input. According to Plaistow Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald, one YMCA leader has expressed concern about a YMCA in Plaistow: Rob MacGregor, executive director of the Southern District YMCA. The Southern District YMCA serves 16 towns, including Plaistow, and is looking to construct a new facility in Exeter.

Fitzgerald met with MacGregor last week to discuss a potential new facility.

“We talked about challenges of running a nonprofit YMCA,” Fitzgerald said. “We certainly have a better perspective of the concerns he has.”

MacGregor would not go into detail on any concerns.

“We remain committed to meeting the needs of the Plaistow community,” he said.

The Southern District YMCA runs before- and after-school programs at Pollard School in Plaistow. Many Plaistow children also attend the YMCA’s Camp Lincoln summer program in Kingston.

“We left it that we would continue to work together on this,” Fitzgerald said. “This is a conversation that can and should continue to happen.”

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

The Rockingham Athletic Club is a 55,000-square-foot facility. The club has four basketball courts and a two-floor fitness area.

The club is still open, and owner Stephen Drelick has allowed the YMCA to bring its programs into the club, while the YMCA of the USA continues to review the plans. The sale of the building is contingent on the YMCA of the USA’s approval.

“Even until the YMCA of the USA makes its final decision, we will be able to provide leagues, classes and other programs to the community,” Lovasco said.

Fitzgerald said a YMCA would fit the town’s strategic recreation plan.

“This would be a project that would meet many needs for the town and would be a terrific opportunity for the town of Plaistow,” he said.

Lovasco said that YMCA of the North Shore would present plans to YMCA of the USA by the beginning of September. He did not know when a YMCA might open if approved.