ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The YMCA of Rock River Valley is getting ready to launch a new expansion of its SwedishAmerican Riverfront YMCA with a groundbreaking on Tuesday.

The first phase of the $3.1 million investment will add cardio and strength training to the space north of the existing Wellness Center.

Chief Advancement Officer Michelle Gorham says the transformation will modernize the YMCA, reconfiguring the building to be easier to navigate, and add new teen space for youth and families.

“I think, when you look at the Y or look at an organization that’s designed to transform lives, you want to go to a place that’s inspiring and elevates your mood and interests you and engages you in a way that you aren’t, otherwise,” she said. “I think that this addition will start to make that happen for us.”

The YMCA is competing with other Rockford fitness centers, such as Peak Fitness and others that become hotspots for teens on weekend nights.

Wray Howard, who attended Tuesday’s groundbreaking, was the YMCA’s CEO for over 20 years before retiring in 2011.

“I stuck with the Y all these years because I know it makes a difference in the lives of kids and families because it did in my own life,” he said. “It’s exciting to see the growth and expansion and the ability to serve your families and your kids. And, of course, the health and wellness of our community.”

Current CEO Brent Pentenburg says the Y is responding to the needs of the community with the new 9,000-square-foot expansion, and believes the additional development will improve health overall.

“As the family grows stronger, our community grows stronger as well. And so we want to continue to leverage our our facilities, our properties, our programs and our services and our amazing staff and volunteers to continue to make sure that this place and space is accessible and affordable to our and to our families,” he said.

Howard says the YMCA has always been about providing a safe place for families and the addition will help continue that.

“It’s really about the community more than the building, actually. So, when I think of expansion here, I think it just allows the Y to serve more kids, more families,” he said.