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With a new name and a new look, Lino Lakes reopens the closed YMCA

Rebranded and remodeled, Lino Lakes is set to reopen as a closed YMCA, providing community residents with a place to train and congregate again.

Michael Carter, 74, of Lino Lakes couldn’t be happier.

“I missed the Y,” he said of stopping to exercise last week. “It’s convenient. I gained a few pounds. I wanted it to reopen.”

Called the Rookery Activity Center, the facility at 7690 Village Drive will officially open on Monday. But it has already welcomed its first members like Carter who had been with Minnesota’s Endurance Fitness. The small gym that offered fitness classes at a nearby mall recently lost its lease and is partnering with the Rookery to continue programming there. Classes have already started.

“It was an easy transition,” said Endurance owner Ron Carlson. “It’s our home base.”

When the Lino Lakes YMCA closed in March 2020 as part of a reorganization plan — facilities in St. Paul and Prior Lake also closed — “it left a hole for the community and they had to go to Forest Lake or Shoreview,” Rookery manager Lisa Lamey said. “Now they can go home.”

About 275 people have already purchased subscriptions, Lamey said.

After the Y was removed, the city-owned building stood empty, and it felt like “a travesty,” Mayor Rob Rafferty said. That’s when city leaders and staff began looking for a way to reopen the facility.

“We had to pay the mortgage whether it was open or not,” Rafferty said. “I think it’s an asset to the community.”

The state used the building as a vaccination and COVID testing center, but it didn’t bring in much money. Then about $2 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 came in, and each City Hall department “took the bull by the horns and came up with a plan to make it work,” he said. Rafferty.

Over the past five months, city staff and contractors have redone the building from top to bottom, installing new locker rooms, flooring, heating and cooling, and furniture in the lobby. New carpet was laid, the walls were painted and muralist Tony Staffki added his artwork. Even the electric plates were turned off. The center was renamed Rookery in a nod to the many great blue herons that nest in the area.

“We want people to see it as the Rookery, not the Y,” Lamey said.

Mission accomplished, said Alexandra Floren, 30, of Blaine.

“It’s beautiful,” she said as she trained with weights last week.

The Rookery will offer monthly and annual subscriptions as well as 10-visit passes and daily rates. It also plans to offer 53 fitness classes through Endurance, youth programs, specialty camps, pickleball, and health and wellness classes for seniors to complete a full range weights, treadmills and elliptical machines. Floren said she was thrilled to be able to take swimming lessons.

“I kayak and I can’t swim,” she said.

Rafferty acknowledges that the job is not done. The swimming pool water slide will be refurbished during the summer and there are dreams of expanding the gymnasium in the future. But for now, the immediate goal is to create a welcoming space where people can meet their friends and neighbors.

“It’s going to get there,” he said. The transformation of the building has “been totally uplifting. We gave the community center a new name and better still, a place where people want to be.

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