State funds boost YMCA project

$1.5 million pledged will benefit agency’s plan to expand facility, its services for families

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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A new six-lane swimming pool, an elevated indoor track, children’s locker rooms, a teen center and more space for child supervision services are just some of the new features the Clark County Family YMCA will have after it completes a remodel, which will partially be paid for by money from the state’s capital budget.

The facility learned last month that $1.5 million was carved out of the state’s supplemental capital budget for the remodel. It was something the YMCA had hoped for but didn’t expect given the tough financial situation faced by state lawmakers as they headed into the 2012 legislative session.

Supporters of the state’s capital project spending have said it will create tens of thousands of jobs statewide. Meanwhile, YMCA officials say the state money will help it secure the rest of the funds needed to complete the project.

“It was critically important to receive the $1.5 million,” said Bruce Patton, chief development officer with the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette. Securing such funding makes the project more enticing for foundations and other donors to chip in. “They’re looking at it saying, ‘We want to be part of your success,’” Patton said.

Once the two-year, $8.2 million YMCA remodel is complete, the facility expects to add permanent jobs equivalent to nine full-time employee positions, Clark County Family YMCA Executive Director Eddie White said. He estimated that the construction on the remodel itself will demand new jobs equal to 25 to 30 full-time positions.

The remodel will expand the square footage of the facility from roughly 45,000 to 60,000 square feet.

The six-lane lap pool will be built in the lawn area adjacent to the existing pool, and it will include bleacher seating for spectators. The new pool will be a few degrees cooler than the current pool, and it will be enclosed by glass windows like the current pool.

Having two pools with different purposes will help the facility expand its swimming programs.

The new pool is “a great expansion for our active older adults,” White said, adding that it’s been hard to manage pool demand. “We’re busting at the seams. Everybody wants open-swim time.”

There will still be a family changing room and men’s and women’s locker rooms, but the facility will gain two additional locker rooms for girls and boys 17 and younger. White said this will provide a calmer locker room experience for the adults and more safety for the children.

Adding an indoor track overlooking the gym will allow a parent to walk or run while their child plays basketball, White said. The track will be accessible through a new hallway on the facility’s second floor. About 14 laps will equal one mile.

The gym floor will be upgraded from treated concrete, which provides an unpleasant echo, to wood flooring, White said.

The open area off the side of the gym that now houses a modest climbing wall will be replaced with a teen center with a capacity for 30 youngsters, and it will provide teens with a safe after-school environment. Next to the teen center will be another space for group exercise.

With group workouts, YMCA patrons “have accountability built in, and it’s fun,” White said.

White also said the community does not have much need for the Y’s climbing wall because there are other places in the area that provide rock climbing.

The outdoor concrete patio area behind the gym will become an enclosed play area with new flooring and a large doorway that can be opened during warmer weather. White said he envisions the space being used for group gatherings, such as birthday parties. It will also have a kitchen and media and television area.

“All of the renovations are about providing more opportunities for families,” said Bob Hall, president of YMCA of Columbia-Willamette. He said the group’s “primary customer is the family.”

Floors and cabinets also will be updated throughout the facility. The carpet will be replaced with a rubber flooring, which will make it easier to clean, White said.

The facility does not technically provide licensed child care, but the space for its similar Child Watch program is expected to triple. The facility has about 70 to 80 children in the program now and expects more in the future, based on a recent survey of their clientele.

“They want a family-type center,” White said. “We need to cater to that.”

The plan to remodel has been in place for about a year. The $1.5 million secured in the state’s latest capital budget was thanks to the efforts of the state lawmakers from Clark County, White said.

“It was a group effort,” White said. “They all played a big role.”

The Clark County Family YMCA has a pledged gift of $500,000 from a Clark County couple, and has commitments for about $3.4 million through the federal New Markets Tax Credit program, which helps pay for building projects in low-income areas.

The Clark County YMCA gives out about $500,000 a year in membership scholarships for people with lower incomes. It also partners with 26 Clark County elementary schools to provide an array of after-school programs that reach about 900 children.

The remodel will take place in five phases and is expected to be finished in 2014.

Stevie Mathieu: http://facebook.com/reportermathieu;http://twitter.com/col_politics;stevie.mathieu@columbian.com; 360-735-4523.