Seventeen years — almost to the day — since the Carl E. Sanders Family YMCA opened in Buckhead, the facility celebrated a major expansion and renovation intended to serve a booming and diverse membership.

The $7 million rehabilitation touched every part of the Y at 1160 Moores Mill Road, Executive Director Kristin McEwen said on a recent tour.

The recently expanded Sanders Family YMCA at 1160 Moores Mill Road. (Photo John Ruch)

“We tried to give each area a little bit of love,” she said.

That includes everything from its well-known tennis center to a lesser-known after-school program for kids from lower-income families.

The YMCA has long had a Buckhead presence and once operated along Roswell Road. The Sanders Family YMCA, named for the former Georgia governor who was among its supporters, opened Jan. 20, 2000.

The facility opened with 1,200 charter members, McEwen said. Today’s membership is around 20,000. She said that about 2,000 people visit the Y every day, with around 350 to 400 there at any given time.

Kristin McEwen, executive director of the Carl E. Sanders Family YMCA, shows off an expanded exercise equipment area. (Photo John Ruch)

That demand led to the current expansion and renovation. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception was scheduled for Jan. 19, though various parts of the new building have come into use over the past several weeks.

The project took 18 months to finish after years of fundraising and planning. The funding started with $1 million left to the Y by Sanders in his will. McEwen said Sanders reviewed the expansion plan before his death in 2014.

“His first question was, ‘Can everybody come into my Y? Is it open to anyone?” McEwen recalled. The answer is yes, she added, with the YMCA continuing to offer financial assistance on memberships for those who need it. (They have also waived the Buckhead location’s application fee for the month of January.)

Inside, a 12,000-square-foot expansion includes new studio spaces with blond wood floors and mirrored walls, suitable for the wide variety of fitness classes the Y is known for.

The indoor pool at the YMCA was retiled as part of the renovations. (Photo John Ruch)

“Any classes you could want, we probably have,” said McEwen, adding that they allow the kind of social bonding among different types of people that she thinks is one of the Y’s biggest assets.

Outside, a playground was moved to make more lawn space, and shade structures were added to the tennis courts. The Y’s tennis center is popular and offers some world-class training. Tony Palafox, a former pro who was superstar John McEnroe’s first coach, is among the instructors there. Another is former pro Joe Becknell, who was honored by members with a special plush chair and a mini-fridge filled with Diet Cokes set up at courtside.

he renovated weight-lifting area features more room to move around. (Photo John Ruch)

As for the facility’s future, “The members will tell you it’s already too small,” McEwen joked. She estimated the expanded building will serve for 15 to 20 years before changing demands make it time to renovate again. That means the Y will begin sketching out a possible plan in about five years, she said.

For more information about the Sanders Family YMCA, see or call 404-350-9292,

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.