We ranked the insane new amenities at the Dowd YMCA — from the studios to the rooftop track

Photo by Alex Cason

The Dowd YMCA unveiled their first phase of renovations this week. Members are as excited as kids on Christmas morning, peeking around corners into new classroom spaces and running on the new outdoor track, where the views of Uptown threaten to leave them as breathless as the workout.

If you were thinking big box gyms have moved over to make room for boutique fitness, the Y begs to differ. They have always been more than just a gym, and with this renovation in particular, they’re gunning for the clients taken by the smaller studios — women and millennials.

“Folks have been going to multiple different places to get the type of fitness exercise or workout they want to get,” Joe Angelon, executive director of the Dowd Y, said. “Now they go to a boutique that might offer small group training, that might offer barre training, they might offer yoga training. We feel the YMCA can be that one-stop-shop for everything at a high quality level, and continue to serve the diversity of folks that we have for a long time in Charlotte.”

In addition to attracting more millennials and women, finding function and flow was the renovation’s third objective, with community impact as the fourth, Angelon said.

There are so many new toys, it may be difficult to navigate the excitement. So we ranked them:

(10) A parking deck

The new parking deck gives the Y a total of 700 extra spaces, which will hopefully save any rage from being let out before you get to the gym. You’ll need it later, for the deadlifts you’ll be doing in the new Crossfit workouts.

(9) Workspace

Photo by Alex Cason

Eventually there will be a brand-new cafe to accompany this space on the second floor, with its large tables perfect for spreading out with a laptop, a few friends and a snack or a cup of coffee. Free Wifi makes it the perfect spot to take a conference call before barre class or file a TPS report after powerlifting. Conference rooms are available for meetings.

(8) Reformer studio

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The Pilates reformer studio space got bigger, going from 400 square feet to about 1,000. In addition to two reformers, there’s space for a reformer tower and a pilates Cadillac. Their temporary space was a little smaller and a little noisier, said Pilates personal trainer Julie Hicks. Sometimes, it’s about the details: the new space has dimmable lights, fans and music.

“The new space is huge,” Hicks said. “It’s going to give us so many options, a lot more diversity in the sessions for the clients that come in. We are really excited to be here.”

One thing to note: the reformer studio is not included in the monthly YMCA membership. For a private lesson, a 10-session package will run $600.* If you want to come with a partner or friend, it’s $540 for 10 sessions.* There are other packages available as well.

(7) Fitness stairs

The stairs from the first floor straight to the rooftop may appear to just be a way from A to B, but they are located near the sports performance studio for a reason. “A lot of times in Crossfit, you might take a sandbag or medicine ball, throw it on your shoulder,” Angelon said. “You might come up the stairs, be on the rooftop, do a workout and come back down.”

(6) Free weights and machines space

Photo by Alex Cason

Once sprinkled throughout several floors, now all of the weights are located on the third floor in an open-floor concept. “When I think about the free-weight space, at least in Charlotte, I don’t know of a lot of spaces that size,” Angelon said. “It really replicates a little bit of your college recreation center. When you think about who is moving here, who is moving up and down South Boulevard, hopefully that connects the folks a little bit.”

(5) Barre studio

Photo by Alex Cason

This 2,100-square-foot mirrored studio space with built-in barres offers barre, dance and mat Pilates classes. This is quite a change of venue from the old barre classes, which were held in the basketball gym. In fact, the gym also once held church services, volleyball, a golf range area and pickleball.

(4) Sports performance studio

Photo by Alex Cason

Here you’ll find Crossfit classes, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, functional fitness, boot camps and sports performance training. Large windows let in the natural light, and you can even look down into the gym from the second floor. Inside the space are climbing ropes,  wooden rings, rowers and assault bikes and barbells and kettlebells.

Also note: Crossfit classes run a bit extra. Set aside $110 for 10 classes or $90/month for unlimited classes.*

(3) Yoga studio

Photo by Alex Cason

Pre-renovations, yoga was offered in a conference room, likely a little further away from enlightenment than most students wanted to be. The new yoga studio is equipped with moisture-wicking floors, a radiant infrared heating system and windows to let in natural light.

They even thought of noise reduction: Atrium Health was selected as the studio’s upstairs neighbors (instead of something like free weights), and the space is soundproof enough that you won’t hear anyone banging around in the sports performance studio down the hall.

The props wall is a yoga-lover’s dream, equipped with items typically associated with boutique studios: bolsters, blocks, straps, blankets, even cool lavender-scented washcloths for Savasana.

The traditional yoga classes are still being offered, with new classes being added including hot yoga (it will begin in the next couple of weeks, once the heating mechanism is installed), meditation, hip-hop yoga and workshops.  

(2) Atrium Health primary care and Carolinas Rehabilitation

Photo by Alex Cason

Health concerns are easy to address when the doctor’s office is down the hall. Atrium Health has opened an office inside of the YMCA that offers Charlotte Internal Medicine,  Specialty Group Practice and Carolinas Rehabilitation services.

The goal here is connectivity between a physician’s office and the gym, Angelon said. “From high blood pressure to diabetes to heart disease, a lot of times the first prescription is typically exercise.”

You don’t have to be a member of the Y to use these services.

(1) Rooftop

Photo by Alex Cason

Who wouldn’t want to run or walk on the outdoor rooftop track with sweeping views of the city? Or, if the work is done, you can take a rest at one of the tables in the corner while enjoying a snack or reading a book.

The space typically has blank turf in the center, a perfect space for lunges across the lawn or events such as free movie nights, rooftop church services, sunrise/sunset yoga classes, athletic conditioning or a donor appreciation night, such as the one they were setting up for when CharlotteFive visited.

Photo by Alex Cason

All of the above are just the first round of amenities. The old standbys are still there: swimming pools, basketball courts, child care and more. There’s much more still to come over the next several months, including a new cardio room, a new cycle studio, a new family locker room, a fitness innovation space where people can test new programs and a new cafe that will offer healthy options.

Want to go?
The Dowd YMCA is located at 400 E Morehead St.

When to go:
5am-midnight Monday – Thursday
5am- 10pm Friday
7:30am-8pm Saturday
12-8pm Sunday

Check out the class schedule here.

*The Crossfit and Pilates reformer rates don’t take into account My Y pricing, which will be income-adjusted.


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