Gym space and availability can be hard to come by on the Blue Hill Peninsula.
Matthew Montgomery, operations director for the Lawrence Family Fitness Center in Blue Hill, stands in the new gym, which is expected to open in April. An elevated track second-floor track is expected to open this week. The facility is run by Down East Family YMCA. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

Two years after a new public pool and fitness center opened in Blue Hill, a YMCA is nearing completion of the addition of a basketball gym and elevated track.

The Lawrence Family Fitness Center first opened off South Street in fall 2020. It is run by Ellsworth-based Down East Family YMCA, but was funded by a foundation created by Chuck and Belinda Lawrence, the founders of Tradewinds of supermarkets and other businesses.

The completion of the gym and track will add a “whole other level” of programs available to people who live on the Blue Hill Peninsula, said Matt Montgomery, the Y’s operations director in Blue Hill. The 364-foot track, which overlooks the gym, is expected to open for use this week. The gym is expected to open in April, after the wooden floor is installed.

“We’re thrilled,” Montgomery said of the pending gym opening. “The Lawrences have done all of this. It will have the feel of a full-fledged YMCA.”

Montgomery said gym space and availability can be hard to come by on the Blue Hill Peninsula, especially during basketball season. The new gym will have a full-sized court and striping on the floor so that at different times visitors can play volleyball or pickleball. There will be mobile basketball hoops, which will allow the space to be divided into two smaller basketball courts.

To the side of the gym floor will be space for indoor batting cages, Montgomery said. Upstairs, accessible via the elevated track, will be two classrooms that can be reserved for community classes or private birthday parties.

The Y plans to organize adult and youth recreational leagues for basketball and pickleball, and will have open gym times as well.

“Kids will have a place to go after school,” Montgomery said.

The genesis of the recreation center dates back roughly a decade, when the Lawrences approached the Y about running a small-scale fitness center in a garage behind the local Trade Winds supermarket, Montgomery said. The Y agreed, and over the next few years got about 300 people to join through paid memberships.

About five years ago, the Lawrences decided to build a 25-yard competition-grade swimming pool, along with a second-floor weight and fitness room, and the Y agreed to run that, too. With the eventual addition of a gym in mind, the garage was demolished to make way for the new pool building, where the George Stevens Academy swim team practices and hosts meets.

When the gym addition is complete, the Lawrence Family Foundation will have spent roughly $10 million on the new recreation center, Montgomery said. The new track is named for Peter Farragher, who just retired after serving as the Y’s executive director for 24 years.

Community support for the facility has “exceeded expectations,” Montgomery said, with roughly 1,700 members using it on a consistent basis. Members of the Down East Family YMCA have full access to the Y facilities in Ellsworth and Blue Hill, and to a smaller fitness center it operates on Bridge Street in Bucksport.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....