Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Familiar Face Back at Williams YMCA; and the Y Will Be Expanding, Adding Nearly 10,000 Square Feet of "Fitness Space."

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Familiar Face Back at Williams YMCA; and the Y Will Be Expanding, Adding Nearly 10,000 Square Feet of "Fitness Space."

Article excerpt

Byline: Rhonda Reese

He's ba-ack. Mike O'Brien, who was the well-loved executive director of the Charles Williams YMCA in Mandarin before taking a few years off to pursue a business opportunity, has returned to his former position. He and the members of the Y couldn't be happier.

"It's great to be back," O'Brien said. "This has been home for me for a long time."

O'Brien said his twin boys, now 21, have been coming with him to work out at the 10415 San Jose Blvd. location since they were 4.

"This was Big Tree back then," O'Brien said of the Y's current property. "My boys spent many memorable years of their life at this site."

O'Brien recalled how he sat down with an architect in 1997 to go over plans for one of the Williams Y's renovations. He's now doing that task again as the Williams Y is undertaking another renovation and expansion of their center.

An avid runner, O'Brien is also back trekking through his old Mandarin stomping grounds.

"We moved to St. Johns County a few years ago, but we will always love Mandarin," O'Brien said. "This is a unique area that will always hold a special place in my heart."

Within a few weeks, construction sounds will be heard at the Williams Y. The center is again growing up and out to better serve families.

"We're expanding the center, adding almost 10,000 square feet of fitness space," said O'Brien.

Plans include a 5,000-square-foot area for strength training, two new adult-only locker rooms, new aerobic studios, a tennis sign-in desk and welcome area, and increased parking.

O'Brien said the facilities will be handicap-accessible.

Auld-White will serve as contractor for the project.

"We've needed new space for aerobics and areas in which to hold things such as yoga and Pilates classes for some time," he said. "We'll also be getting new Precor fitness equipment with individual TV screens. People will no longer have to strain to watch those big televisions upstairs."

In addition to new equipment, O'Brien said the Williams Y will hire additional staff members.

"We're looking for an October groundbreaking and hope the renovations will be complete in early 2007," O'Brien added. …

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