Eye on the new Y: Construction to begin later this year

TRAVERSE CITY – The capital campaign to build a new YMCA for the Grand Traverse region is well on its way, with some $4 million raised as of mid-March toward a goal of $8.2 million.

Construction will begin when fundraising reaches $7.7 million, said YMCA CEO Tom Van Deinse.

"Sometime in '08," said Van Deinse when asked about a projected start date.

If the project begins this fall, the new facility will open in the fall of 2009, anywhere from six months to a year behind original timelines, according to campaign literature.

"I feel very good about where we are today, especially considering the difficult economic times in Michigan," said Henry Peet, the YMCA's capital campaign chair and principal/sales agent for Fawcett Dopke Insurance Agency. "We made a decision some time ago to hold off construction until the majority of our goal had been met."

The total project cost is estimated at $22.5 million and the facility will be built in phases on 20.5 acres on Silver Lake Road just south of West Junior High. The property was purchased in December 2006 with a $1.5 million family foundation gift that kicked off the capital campaign, said Van Deinse. Rotary Charities awarded a $250,000 grant to help fund construction. No other donor information has been released.

The "essential phase," estimated at $10.6 million, will be built first with the facility's three main components: a recreational, "learn to swim" pool, two full-size gymnasiums, and a fitness area offering free weight and cardio areas, an aerobics studio and a youth fitness area.

The "learn to swim" pool is a critical need in this region, according to Van Deinse, as 40 percent of local 7th graders can't swim 25 yards to save their life or the life of a friend. With the new pool, Van Deinse said 2,000 children will learn to swim each year. The YMCA is currently offering aquatics programming in area hotel pools and reaching about 65 children.

The first phase of construction could also include a daycare center if the nearly $1 million price tag is raised, greatly expanding childcare services which currently include limited babysitting as well as after school programs. Van Deinse said many area employers have echoed the need for greater access to affordable, quality, year-round daycare for their employees' children. Across the nation, Van Deinse added, YMCA is the largest single-provider of daycare.

"We have received a naming pledge for the day care center, and we are optimistic that we can raise the additional funds to make that a part of the first phase," said Van Deinse.

Similar to the aquatics programming, the YMCA will likely begin offering daycare off-site sometime this year in anticipation of the new center.

The YMCA currently has 3,000 members and anticipates 4,000 new members and program users at the new facility, said Van Deinse.

The current building was constructed in the early 1970s and operated as the Logan Racquet Club until the early 80s when it became the YMCA. The new facility will double in size and full-time staff will increase to 19.

"We're busting at the seams," said Van Deinse. "We've got the programs and the demand. We don't have the facility. We're building exactly to meet the community needs."

Future construction phases include an eight-lane competitive pool, a racquet sports facility, a fieldhouse and outdoor soccer fields.

The gymnastics facility will stay at its current location on Woodmere for the immediate future. There is a space reserved for it at the new facility should a decision be made at a later date to relocate it. BN