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Tiles were still going down, signs were missing, hand weights were piled in the hallway, and more exercise bikes were waiting be moved Friday. But even without the finishing touches, the Buffalo Niagara YMCA’s newest and largest facility is nothing short of impressive.

The $24.6 million Independent Health Family Branch, located next to the Erie Community College North Campus at 150 Tech Drive in Amherst, will host a grand opening Friday to showcase its 94,000-square-foot fitness facility, followed by a weekend of tours and membership sign-ups.

Boasting two pools, five locker rooms, a commercial-grade demonstration kitchen, a giant gym/track space, high-end fitness equipment and an “Alaskan Adventure” play space for children, the new Y is the first major branch to open in the region since the Southtowns Family YMCA opened nearly 10 years ago.

“We’re anticipating a huge draw,” said Allison Lawson, executive director of the current Northeast Family Branch at 4433 Main St., which will be replaced by the new Y facility when the new facility is open for public use Jan. 14.

Contractors were busy putting down tile, conducting safety checks and cleaning up Friday in anticipation of this week’s ribbon-cutting. Hiring for part-time jobs is also ongoing as administrators look to fill more than 200 positions in the open-design facility, said spokeswoman Kathy Romanowski.

Lawson said some current members of the existing Northtowns YMCA are sorry the old building – which will be taken over by Daemen College – is closing Jan. 13, but the new branch is substantially larger and offers much better access and parking than the cramped old building.

“I think everybody’s ready to move to something bigger and better,” she said.

Where she was standing – by the zero-depth pool – was a good example of what “bigger and better” entails. The sloped, wade-in pool featured bubbling and shooting fountains on one end and dropped to a 3-foot depth. The water temperature stays 100 degrees.

Next door, the six-lane, 35-yard lap pool awaits more serious swimmers.

The first floor is also home to a demonstration kitchen sponsored by Wegmans, with nutrition programming that will be done in consultation with a dietician, Romanowski said. Down the hall is the new “Alaskan Adventure” play space for children of all ages, with giant windows, “igloos,” colorful climbing equipment and slides covering about 2,000 square feet.

The new facility offers more and costs more. Those who have an annual family membership to the existing Northeast Family Center will pay about $168 more for membership to the Independent Health Family YMCA, Lawson said.

But the new facility dwarfs the size of the old one and is expected to attract members from beyond the Town of Amherst, including Clarence. The facility will offer more than 120 group exercise classes, 40 aquatic fitness classes and more than 100 swim lessons a week, as well as child care.

Public tours will be offered from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday. A family membership is $810 per year. An individual membership is $600. For more information on membership types, rates and benefits, visit www.ymcabuffaloniagara.org/branches/northeast.html.

email: stan@buffnews.com