Steeled with New Year’s resolutions, Midcoast residents are again flocking to gyms this January, but local towns and nonprofit organizations are looking beyond temporary membership bumps and reimagining the future of fitness in the region.

Fitness centers across the country count on the wave of signups each new year brings, and 2023 has been no exception, according to Rob Gray, CEO of Bath Area Family YMCA. During the first eight days of January, 106 households signed up for new memberships at the organization, nearly twice the number of members that joined during the same time period in 2022.

“The world has been very different the last three years,” said Gray, who credited the unusually large surge in signups this winter to waning COVID fears. “The pent-up demand is just huge.”

Rather than just target New Year’s goal setters, who often disappear by springtime, Gray said the Bath YMCA is taking steps to become a “family destination.” In February, the organization will begin hosting bi-monthly “family fun nights” and resurrect a once-popular babysitting program that will let parents safely stow their kids while they work out.

“We’re getting a lot of calls about that,” he said. “I could not be more excited.”

Exercise has also taken on a new look in Brunswick, which saw the opening of the Parks & Recreation Department’s new state-of-the-art fitness center this November. The facility, which will share a building with the department’s upcoming child care program, offers residents access to resistance machines, free weights and cardio equipment at competitive rates.


Access to the fitness center’s indoor track and court space — home to the accessible and increasingly popular sport of pickleball — is free for both residents and non-residents.

The Parks & Rec Department’s facility may not be the area’s newest for long, as local organizers continue to make progress on the multimillion-dollar Midcoast Athletic and Recreation Complex, which could bring an outdoor turf playing field, skate park, pickleball courts and more to Brunswick Landing.

In Topsham, where Six Rivers Youth Sports hopes to complete work on an ice arena by fall 2024, residents are hopeful that a new community center could soon provide additional recreation space.

“A swim pool is desperately needed in this area,” wrote one of nearly 1,000 respondents to a survey of Topsham residents in 2021. “Those of us that have difficulty walking would be able to get exercise.”

Topsham received proposals in December from three external groups interested in conducting a community needs assessment, according to Assistant Town Manager Mark Waltz. The winning firm will likely work with residents through focus groups and other means later this year to determine the interest in adding fitness spaces to a community center proposal — and the appetite to pay for such a project.

“The budget is not unlimited,” Waltz cautioned. “Stay tuned.”

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