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YMCA unveils Hamilton plans

Construction to remodel the Marin YMCA began this week just as officials unveiled plans to bring a full-service fitness center to Hamilton Field.

Work on the Marin YMCA's new site, the fifth tenant to occupy the 55,000-square-foot Hangar Three, is expected to begin next month after officials signed a 15-year lease agreement.

The Hamilton fitness center will occupy 11,500 square feet on the first floor. The opening of the new YMCA facility is planned for late summer.

"Did we have other fitness centers interested? Yes," said Brian Eisberg of Orion Partners Ltd., who served with Haden Ongaro as the leasing agents. "But we chose the Y because of their outstanding reputation and public service nature. We view this as an outstanding addition to the Novato community."

The new YMCA will be configured in an "L" shape, have 26-foot-high ceilings, and house both cardiovascular and strength training equipment in one large space.

New Strive strength training equipment not offered at the Marin YMCA's main branch in San Rafael will improve the weight-training workout, said Luann Champlin, executive director of the Marin branch of the YMCA of San Francisco.

"It's unique because it has three settings for exercise," she said. "It's truly a whole-muscle workout."

The Hamilton center will offer two multipurpose rooms for classes, two small locker rooms and a child care area. A swimming pool down the street from the hangars operated in partnership with the city of Novato also will welcome Y members.

Barker Pacific Group, which owns and manages the hangars, will use in-house project manager Jim Albrecht on the construction project. Albrecht, who said conversion from a bare hangar to a gym shouldn't be difficult.

"It's relatively straightforward," he said. "There's a lot of things already built in."

The Marin YMCA, which has had a presence in the county for 56 years, has more than 15,000 members. Although the pricing structures have yet to be finalized, Champlin said the intention is to allow current YMCA members who work out in San Rafael to also work out at Hamilton.

A $500,000 capital campaign has been launched to help pay for the project at Hamilton. Donors at different levels will be recognized on a wall in front of Hangar Three, Champlin said.

At the existing YMCA site on Los Gamos Drive in San Rafael, walls came tumbling down this week as part of the $870,000 effort to reconfigure the building. The branch, which has been there since 1987, has never had a major face-lift, officials said.

Once demolition is finished, workers will build the Youth and Teen Center and then the multi-purpose room. The project to expand the multipurpose room by taking over an existing racquetball court is expected to take about 10 weeks, officials said.

Strength-training equipment will be temporarily housed in the multi-purpose room as crews remove walls to create a large cardiovascular and strength-training room that will extend to the building's east-facing windows to bring in more light.

The center will be shut down for a week for finishing touches, such as new flooring and paint. The project is expected to be finished by mid-June.

Contact Jennifer Upshaw via e-mail at

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