The long search for a new location for the Meadville Family YMCA's Gymnastics Center is finally over.

After years spent in Vernon Township, the YMCA's gymnastics program will move to the second floor at Bill Lawrence's Personal Fitness & CrossFit Meadville as part of the former Shops @the Bank building downtown. The move to the new building is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 30, according to a Meadville YMCA release.

The programs the YMCA Gymnastics Center provides include several levels of competitive gymnastics with more than 50 team members as well as classes for kids inspired by the "Ninja Warrior" TV series. More than 250 children visit the facility on a weekly basis at the YMCA's current location at the Vernon Centre plaza.

"We had been looking for buildings all over Crawford County, just to find the best fit, what was going to work for our families, not really wanting them to travel too far," said Tina Carter, executive director of the Meadville Family YMCA. "When the Lawrences contacted us about taking over the upstairs again — because we had been there in the past — we really felt we needed to consider that offer pretty heavily."

The search for a new facility was a collaborative effort between the Meadville Family YMCA and the parents of its gymnastics team and other program participants, according to Carter. The YMCA formed a parent committee and invited it to tour potential locations along with coaches. 

"We didn’t feel it was right for just the YMCA leadership team to make the decision on where we were going to move the program to," Carter said. "They went out looking for sites with us. We wanted to make sure they were happy and comfortable with the location that we chose."

The timing was right as Bill and Tara Lawrence moved their personal fitness gym from its long-time second floor location to the main floor of the massive former bank on Park Avenue in mid-September. The Lawrences also purchased the entire 42,000-square-foot facility in late August. It has room for seven tenants and was just outfitted with a new roof.

"It’s enormous," Bill said of the second floor area. "It’s 10,000 square feet of open space, super high ceilings. It’s perfect for them. We’re excited to have them there."

Bill explained that when he moved into the building six years ago, the YMCA had just moved out. Thinking of a new organization to take over the second floor space, he and Tara thought of the YMCA first. The YMCA worked to secure a three-year lease with an option to renew.

"It’s all health- and fitness-related," Bill said. "I’ve never thought of myself as competition with the Y. Some people are like, ‘Oh, you have the Y upstairs. Don’t you do the same thing?’ I never really thought we did. We do all small group personal training and CrossFit, which is not an open gym concept."

Carter was glad the new space allowed the YMCA to continue with the same offerings as before and also mentioned some new programs during the day such as Mommy and Me mobility classes that are now possibilities in the downtown location.

"We were very excited that the Lawrences approached us, and we’re very excited to move forward working with them," Carter said.

Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at tdague@meadvilletribune.com.

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