Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 24, 2017

YMCA unveils new design

By David Hotle | May 17, 2017
YMCA of Washington County Board President David Mitchell, committee chair Rachel Nicola, and Interim CEO Amy Schulte show an artist’s renderings of what the proposed YMCA building would look like. Photos and floor plans of the building are available at www.buildwashingtonymca.com.

On Tuesday, after close to a year in the planning, the Washington Community Y board unveiled its design for a new $9 million facility to be constructed at West Fifth Street and North D Avenue along with its plans to make the building a reality.

With plans to break ground on the building in the summer of 2018, the Y Board has started a fundraising campaign called ‘Y - For a Better Us,’ to pay for the construction. The phased building plan is to complete a Phase 1 building with a $3 million Phase 2 addition as soon as fundraising efforts make it possible. The building’s design can also be expanded to include a third phase as well as other future expansions as needed. The plan is downsized from a previous $10.4 million plan.

“We really want to hit the fundraising part over the summer,” fundraising committee chair Rachel Nicola said.

So far, about $2.5 million has been raised for the project from private donations and the Y Board hopes to raise another $3 million. This in addition to anticipated grant funding will reach the goal.

As part of the fundraising effort, the Y is in discussions with Enhance Iowa, formerly Vision Iowa, for part of the funding. Y interim director Amy Shulte said Enhance Iowa’s focus now is on recreation.

“With Enhance Iowa, they want to be the last dollar in on the project,” Schulte said. “They want to be completion funding of the project. Our challenge is going to be getting our own fundraising done to that point.”

Tuesday evening, the Washington City Council agreed to partner its Wellness Park project with the Y building project to seek Enhance Iowa funds. Schulte stressed this would not use city funds to pay for the Y building.

Part of the existing money is a grant from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation for $3.5 million that anticipated the $10.4 million project and required ground be broken on the project by the end of 2017. Y Board president David Mitchell said the Y Board will have to speak with the Riverboat Foundation about an extension.

Following a failed $3 million bond referendum, the Y board had revisited all its plans and every question for the project from the beginning. The existing facility, in the 100 block of East Main Street, is over 92 years old. A feasibility study on the facility found program spaces were too small for the growing membership and that there were several structural problems with the building. According to the survey, the building itself is structurally sound, but not Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. The Y Board determined it would be more cost-effective to build a new building than to try to renovate the existing building.

“This building could be renovated, but it would cost us more than starting new,” Nicola said. “We still wouldn’t have any room to grow. We still would have a parking problem. The cost would far outweigh anything we could come up with.”

Phase 1 of the project includes a full-size high school gymnasium that includes a spectator area, wellness center, two exercise rooms, youth room, and senior gaming area. The entrance will be on West Sixth Street and North D Avenue. The entrance was designed this way due to concerns about children having to cross the busy West Third to get to the facility.

A six-lane swimming pool is planned for Phase 2 of the project. While the Y board and staff understands the need for a pool, Schulte said, the result of input from the community was for the pool to be in the second phase of the project.

“Some citizens asked us to consider building the pool first, instead of the gym and multi-purpose rooms,” Schulte said. “We looked at that possibility.”

She said the operating loss of a stand-alone pool was calculated to be $100,000 per year. Based on the projected costs and data, the Y board decided to include the pool in phase 2.

Because the Y intends to keep the existing pool open until the completion of Phase 2 of the project, there is no plan for the existing Y building yet. The Y pool is the only indoor pool in Washington. After Phase 2, the board hopes to find someone who can use the existing building, preferring not to tear it down.

“Swimming has always been an important part of the Y and our board takes not putting the pool in Phase 1 very seriously,” Mitchell said. “We want to get to Phase 2 to complete that as soon as possible.”

Mitchell said the existing pool is aged and the Y has put in thousands of dollars to keep it operational, and still not solved all the problems. He said the board is very worried about its longevity.

More information on the project can be found online at www.buildwashingtonymca.com.

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