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Partners mark YMCA at The Pines' opening

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Paul O'Neal (center), chairman of the College of The Albemarle Board of Trustees and a member of the YMCA of South Hampton Roads Board of Directors, cuts the ribbon celebrating the opening of the new YMCA at The Pines facility in Elizabeth City, Tuesday. Joining O'Neal are (l-r) Taylor Sugg, chairman of the COA Foundation Board of Directors; Billy George, president and chief executive officer of YMCA of South Hampton Roads; COA President Robert Wynegar; and Dean Mattix, the YMCA of South Hampton Roads' district vice president for northeastern North Carolina.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Members of the community came together with representatives of College of The Albemarle and the YMCA of South Hampton Roads Tuesday evening to celebrate the opening of the YMCA at The Pines.

A ribbon cutting was held by the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce at the facility on North Road Street that features an 18-hole golf course as well as a saltwater pool and a banquet hall for special events.

Dean Mattix, YMCA of South Hampton Roads’ district vice president for northeastern North Carolina, told the crowd on hand for the event that as he works at the facility he often sees golf foursomes end their day on the 18th green. As he’s watched those moments unfold, Mattix said he has noticed that more is going on than just the conclusion of a round of golf.

“They’re doing something bigger than just chasing a little white ball,” Mattix said.

Members of golf foursomes have convinced each other that they can accomplish something together that they couldn’t do on their own, he said.

Mattix said that reminds him of the collaboration between the COA Foundation and the YMCA of South Hampton Roads in deciding to operate the YMCA at The Pines.

Paul O’Neal, chairman of the COA Board of Trustees and also a board member with the YMCA of South Hampton Roads, said the venture began when Bill Taylor — whom he called “a generous member of the community” — offered The Pines facility to COA.

“It was quite an amazing gift,” O’Neal said.

While COA was happy to receive such a large gift — college officials previously have estimated its value at $3.83 million — neither the college nor its foundation is equipped to operate a golf course, O’Neal said. The college needed a way to maintain the golf course as an asset to the community, and the partnership with the YMCA of South Hampton Roads allowed that to happen, he said.

COA President Robert Wynegar said that as he was beginning his service at the college earlier this year he was briefed by Kennon Briggs, COA’s former interim president, on various upcoming projects. It was at the very end of that process that Briggs mentioned the prospect of Taylor’s gift of The Pines, he said.

“I spent 30 years in higher education and I never dreamed I’d be responsible for a golf course,” Wynegar said.

It quickly became clear that the only way the project could work would be through a partnership with the YMCA, he said.

Billy George, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of South Hampton Roads, said the YMCA is honored to be part of the collaboration. The YMCA staff have worked hard on the transition and now want the community to come out and play golf and join the YMCA, he said.

Mattix said in an interview Tuesday that the YMCA has reduced catering fees and membership fees to fit the community. The YMCA at the Pines is available as an add-on to a YMCA of South Hampton Roads membership for an additional $70 per month. In addition, the organization is offering a YMCA at The Pines-only membership that costs $170 a month for an individual or $200 a month for a family.

A number of family-oriented events are being planned.

“We’re trying to reach out and make it so it appeals to the entire family, not just the golfer,” Mattix said.

Mattix said the YMCA at the Pines is a community asset and the community needs to invest in it.

The YMCA plans to expand its learn-to-play program and junior golf program at the Pines.

The Albemarle Family YMCA has about 1,600 membership units — individuals, couples and families, Mattix said. The YMCA has about 5,200 membership units in northeastern North Carolina as a whole, including at its facilities in Currituck and Dare counties.

Wynegar said as part of the partnership, COA will be able to use the building for classes during the day. Details are still being worked out regarding which classes might be taught there, he said.

Mattix added that even with COA using the facility for classes, the facility will still be available for special events in the evening and on weekends.

“It’s just a great partnership,” Mattix said.

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