In-Shape debuts remake of Modesto YMCA facility

Nineteen months after the closure of the financially ailing YMCA complex in Modesto, the place is the picture of health.

It reopened Friday as the latest site for In-Shape Health Clubs, which poured more than $8 million into a makeover of the McHenry Avenue building.

"It looks beautiful -- spotlessly clean," former YMCA member Phil Bramley said just before easing into one of the refurbished swimming pools. "It's nice to see the building was used for something gym-related."

The building, erected in 1964, was a hub of activity for users young and old for nearly half a century.

With its debt reaching $2.18 million in 2008, the YMCA of Stanislaus County put the property on the market. That group's sole function these days is Camp Jack Hazard in Tuolumne County.

In-Shape, based in Stockton, revamped the Y building from top to bottom. It added a third pool and a spa, installed up-to-date cardio and weight machines, remodeled the locker rooms and put up a bright new facade.

The most dramatic change is in the space that used to hold the basketball courts. It has been sectioned off into several rooms for weight training and group exercise, including a mezzanine partway up to the gym ceiling. The old wooden floor has a new, darker stain.

Simile Construction Service Inc. of Modesto was the general contractor on the project, which enhanced a stretch of McHenry that has struggled with vacancies.

A few reminders of the Y carry

on -- the racquetball courts, the extra-warm therapy pool, the play structure in the children's area.

"We wanted to make sure that people who went to the old YMCA are still comfortable in this club," In-Shape regional manager George Bishop said.

These people include Helen Sarkis, who wrote a letter last year urging In-Shape to keep the warm pool for the benefit of disabled people like herself.

"God bless In-Shape -- they kept the swimming pool," she said while waiting to exercise Friday.

The management did not know how many of the new club's users are former YMCA members.

The club, which employs about 70 people, is the 41st in the chain. About a third are in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

The former YMCA location operates under the In-Shape Sport name, with more attractions than the In-Shape City or In-Shape Express sites.

The children's area has interactive videos and other equipment to get kids moving. The new pool includes a pair of water slides.

Debra Mitchell, who uses several In-Shape sites in Modesto, visited the new one to train for a 106-mile bicycle ride next week.

"This is awesome," she said during a break from a FreeMotion Incline machine. "This is exactly what we needed. I can't wait to really dig into it."

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at 578-2385 or