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Mandell JCC Valley Sports & Community Center Employees Look Forward to Grand Opening

December 20, 2015 Community No Comments
At the Mandell JCC Valley Sports & Community Center, from left, are fitness director Zac Brazalovich, sports director Taylor Losey, office manager Brenna Evans, assistant director Samantha Lewis and director Elana MacGilpin Photo by John Fitts

At the Mandell JCC Valley Sports & Community Center, from left, are fitness director Zac Brazalovich, sports director Taylor Losey, office manager Brenna Evans, assistant director Samantha Lewis and director Elana MacGilpin
Photo by John Fitts

Those involved in the Mandell JCC Valley Sports & Community Center, which recently opened at 310 Albany Turnpike, plan to continue legacy of the facility’s former owner, while expanding community based programming.

The West Hartford-based Mandell Jewish Community Center recently re-opened the facility, where Canton resident Mark Lange ran Valley Sports Center for approximately four years before closing it earlier this year.

Mandell plans to rely heavily on the sports theme, add some community programming and sprinkle in Judaic themed events. But above, all the center’s employees say it’s a place for the community at large, not just those of Jewish faith.

“Our doors are open to everybody,” said Elana MacGilpin, who is director of the facility. “We really want to be a partner with the community.”

Much of what Lange and his team offered – such as camps, after-school programs, vacation offerings, birthday parties, drop-in times, individual and small group fitness programs and adult leagues – will continue.

Additionally, the center will offer a few new twists such as Zumba enrichment programs for young children, yoga for preschoolers and a children’s play area.

The center will also offer programs for older adults, such as pickle ball, current events discussion groups and book clubs.

There will be some Jewish-oriented programs, such as Friday morning Shabbat Club with Cantor Marian Kleinman of Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation and holiday programs but even those programs are open to all.

“If you’re Jewish it’s a great way to connect but if not, it’s a great way to learn,” MacGilpin said.

Parents can take advantage of features such as Wi-Fi, a play area for small children and light snack offerings.

The center is currently in a soft opening mode, offering drop-in programs, open gym times, batting cage rentals and some vacation day activities as it gears up for a Jan. 3 open house and expanded offerings in the New Year.

While there will be some part-time positions, there are five people at the core of the Canton operation.

Photo by John Fitts

Photo by John Fitts

In addition to MacGilpin are Assistant Director Samantha Lewis, fitness director Zac Brazalovich, sports director Taylor Losey and office manager Brenna Evans.

All have strong ties to the area and each brings a different perspective.

Lewis said she essentially grew up at the West Hartford JCC, has stayed involved in similar operations throughout the Northeast and recently moved back from the Philadelphia area to help with the project.

“The reason I’m back is for this facility,” she said. “I saw this place, saw what it could be and wanted to be part of it.”

Evans worked previously at Valley Sports Center and is excited to be back.

“It’s like an old home for me but a new family,” she said.

Losey has recently worked for youth oriented groups such as the Boys and Girls Club of Bristol but as a former college basketball player and coach at PACE University, she feels she’s now where she belongs.

“I’m excited to be back in sports,” she said. “It’s nice to offer something new and (bring back) what people have missed.”

Losey said programming will be tweaked as time goes on.

Zac Brazalovich has worked in fitness facilities in West Hartford and Baltimore. He’s especially excited to work with a wide range of people, from athletes to parents just looking to get in better shape in a safe way.

“Proper progression is what I’m looking for,” he said.

MacGilpin has been with JCC for 10 years and she has already worked extensively in the Farmington Valley.

In 2004, the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, which helps fund the JCC, started CHAI: The Center for Jewish Life in Avon. In 2006, MacGilpin was brought in as director, first to run programs at an Avon-based location and later with a “Jewish Community Center without walls,” as JCC hosted a variety of programs at various locations in the greater community.

But also in the past several years, the organization has talked about establishing more of a presence in the Valley and felt the sports center provided the perfect venue.

And MacGilpin is thrilled to take the next step in serving the Farmington Valley area.

“We’re not here as a business,” MacGilpin said. “We here as a community center for people to connect.”

The center’s Grand Opening/Open House from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 3. The free event will include numerous sports programs, music, story times, kids yoga, open play family boot camp and sports performance training and much more. See additional details at

For a complete schedule of the Grand Opening programs and classes visit www.mandelljcc.org/valley. For more information on the Mandell JCC Valley Sports & Community Center, contact Elana MacGilpin, 860-693-2378, elana@mandelljcc.org.

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