By Tiffany Merlo Phelps

David Brown helped establish Ponte Vedra Beach’s YMCA 23 years ago, realizing that it was time for the community to have such a facility in its backyard. 

Fast forward to 2022. Now Brown and his family have come full circle and are once again supporting Ponte Vedra’s YMCA by making a private donation to what is now the Brown Family YMCA at Ponte Vedra Beach. The new name and renovation plans were recently revealed to the community at an unveiling ceremony. 

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Brown said his family recognized that while the YMCA is still doing great work for the community, there is a need for revitalization in an ever-changing world. 

“We want the Y to stay relevant and to become more relevant for the community. That’s what this revitalization is all about. There are so many exciting things coming,” he said. 

The renovations are a part of a capital campaign project with a total cost of $5.3 million. Charlie Chacos, district executive director, said that the Y is halfway to its goal and is looking to the community for support. The renovations will be completed in three stages with each taking about three months to finish, and the speed of construction will be dependent on fundraising efforts, he said. The Brown Family YMCA, located at 170 Landrum Lane, will not close during this time. 

Renovation plans include an 8,600 square foot pre-engineered metal roof “airnasium” that will house a basketball court, rock climbing wall and a 1,000 square foot turf training area plus pickleball courts with an attached gazebo, a 600 square foot new child playground area, a new personal training room and new family locker room. 

“Every affinity group, pickleball players, kids, seniors, weightlifters, group exercise, swimmers etc., will have their area updated. So, however they use the Y experience, they will see a positive change,” said Chacos. 

Naming opportunities include the “airnasium,” locker rooms, aquatics center, teen center, wellness floor, basketball gym, sports recovery, KidZone, pool, cycle studio, Studio A and Studio C – Yoga. 

Brown asked for the community’s help with capital fundraising. 

“We want to take this to the next level. We need everyone’s help to make that happen,” he said. Chacos said he is so grateful for the shared vision with the Brown family. 

“None of this would be possible without the Brown family,” he said. “Their support is incredible and truly transformational for so many people in our community.” 

Brown credited his adult children, Tyler and Katie, with contributing their time and effort to the project. “They are doing all the work for the Brown family,” said David Brown.

Tyler Brown said he has many fond memories of frequenting the Y for fitness, exercise, and, just as importantly, as an after school social spot. 

“At the time I first started going to the Y, I was beginning to focus on my competitive golf and needed a good gym for strength and cardio training,” said Tyler Brown. “It quickly evolved into more than simply a fitness resource, but also a social spot where I would play basketball on a rainy day or just meet up with friends after school.” 

Tyler Brown said the Y helped him learn the value of a good work ethic and self-discipline. 

“At the Y, I was able to set fitness goals, dedicate time and energy to those goals, and then see the results as I grew stronger and performed better in golf competitions. It is fun to look back and know that many of us who trained at the Y for our sports went on to play collegiately and professionally, plus we maintain those friendships over 20 years later.” 

Katie Brown said the mission for the Brown Family Foundation is to help people achieve their potential by supporting their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and assisting organizations that do that effectively. A large portion of the support is oriented toward children and families, she said. 

“Given this, there is a natural alignment with the YMCA and the vision we share with them for the Brown Family YMCA to maximize its impact on the community by having the best facilities, programs and resources,” said Katie Brown. 

Brown Family YMCA board member and capital co-chair Steve Austin said the YMCA has always been an important part of his life, beginning with swim lessons at the age of three and later playing basketball. He noted that the Y serves more than 900 children with its programming offerings, and 100 children in summer camps. Most importantly, he said, no one is ever turned away due to financial hardships. 

“This is much more than a gym. It offers the community so much,” said Austin. 

[Author’s note: For more information about contributing to the capital campaign, contact Chacos at]

Photo courtesy Tiffany Merlo Phelps
Balloon toss at now Brown Family YMCA announcement ceremony in October.

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