September 16, 2020

Princeton YMCA Reopens Its Doors As Gyms Are Allowed to Resume

BACK IN THE SWIM: Among the most popular spots at the Princeton Family YMCA is the pool, where lap swimming has resumed, by appointment, along with other activities.

After being closed since the onset of the pandemic, the Princeton Family YMCA opened its doors this week. Capacity is limited and certain restrictions are in place. Loyal members have begun returning to the facility on Paul Robeson Place.

“I heard a wonderful story today,” said Kate Bech, the organization’s executive director, on  opening day Monday, September 14. “We have four people who have already reactivated their memberships, and they are golden members, which means they are 85 and older. One of them showed up today and said by golly, she was glad to be back! This is very real for a lot of people. For older residents, this has all been very isolating. For them to return to their routine at the Y is very meaningful.”

As of September 1, Gov. Phil Murphy allowed all gyms in the state to reopen as long as they do not exceed 25 percent of indoor capacity, and they follow other safety guidelines. The YMCA rearranged the exercise equipment in its Fitzpatrick Fitness Center, instituted temperature checks, and health screenings, increased sanitation, and is requiring masks to be worn.

Those using the Wellness Center and the pool for lap swimming must make a reservation ahead of time, either online or at (609) 497-9622. Appointments can also be made in person, at the Welcome Desk. The pool is especially popular, and Bech is hoping it will eventually resume a full schedule. In the meantime, members can reserve a one-hour swim in one of the four lanes. Some lessons are also being offered on a limited basis.

The YMCA underwent major renovations in 2016. “They have been hugely popular,” said Bech. “Membership was at its height, and we were feeling great about our growth when the pandemic began in March. It has been pretty dramatic. It was like a spigot being turned off. We had to lay off 95 percent of our staff. But we have brought back a small number of both full-and part-time.”

During the summer, the YMCA was able to offer its annual nine-week camp for 95 children. “We ran the camp successfully, and we kept the building shuttered except for the pool, which was just for the campers,” Bech said. “Then once camp was over, we were able to pivot and start to open the pool for lap swimming.”

The YMCA’s facilities are open to all active members ages 14 and up Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Since all memberships were put on hold when the facilities closed, memberships will need to be reactivated. Members can do that by stopping by the Welcome Desk, or by contacting Bobby Dobra, director of membership and healthy living, at 

Members also need to e-sign an updated Membership Waiver and Code of Conduct before their first workout session. 

The YMCA is also offering some programs for children to get them physically active, and interacting with each other. SportsMania introduces children ages 3-5 to a variety of sports each week; the Fall Soccer Clinic helps players of all levels in grades PreK to 4 hone their soccer skills; and the Fall Basketball League focuses on skill development, team work, fair play, and fun for players in grades one to six. 

The YMCA is also teaming up with Y member (Princeton University) Coach Mitch Henderson for the first time, to offer basketball lessons for players in grades one to six. The program is designed to take kids’ basketball skills to the next level by learning the fundamentals of basketball, enhancing their skills, and learning to play on a team, all while having fun, practicing Y values, and being active. Financial assistance is available for all programs.

“People are coming back slowly, as you might imagine,” said Bech. “I think there is a segment that is not going to cross our threshold for some time. By the same token, we have our group that was there on day one, ready to go. We were happy to see them, and will be thrilled to see everyone else when they are ready to return.”