Citing the need for an improved city YMCA, officials announced plans Wednesday for a new $10 million facility that will be built just south of Susquehanna Health's recent campus improvements.
"We can't afford to keep this Y and continue to serve the community," Jim Bower Sr., campaign chairman, told members of the community and potential donors at the announcement at the Williamsport Country Club.
The present YMCA building on West Fourth Street was constructed in 1923. Since then, it has seen numerous expansions and additions to keep up with needs of the community.
Margaret and Harold Chapman ask Chad Eberhart, branch director of the Williamsport YMCA, questions about the building plans for a new city YMCA during the project announcement Wednesday at the Williamsport Country Club.
Because of that, the structure has about 70,000 square feet of hallways and unusable space, according to Dave Fagerstrom, CEO of the River Valley Regional YMCA. Heating and cooling the entire 210,000-square-foot building has become a challenge, and getting around can be difficult for members and guests.
A new facility with increased conveniences will appeal to new and existing users as well as improve the neighborhood, YMCA officials said.
The location was selected in part due to the health system's expansion and improvements in that area, Fagerstrom explained.
"We contacted them and they loved the idea," he said.
"Susquehanna Health and the YMCA share the same commitment to provide health and wellness opportunities for residents of our region," Steven Johnson, health system president and CEO, said in a news release. "The Williamsport YMCA's new location near Susquehanna Health's Williamsport Regional Medical Center certainly allows for greater synergy between our two organizations to achieve our shared visions and create a healthier region together."
The planned facility will feature open spaces with greater ease of access to all areas. Chad Eberhart, branch director of the Williamsport YMCA, said childcare and preschool areas will be expanded and improved along with fitness areas. One central entrance and exit also will provide for greater security, he said.
The space from the Pickelner Arena is not included in a new YMCA facility, Fagerstrom said.
"Most of what we do in the arena, we can do it in the (new) gymnasium," he said.
"People think of the Y as a 'gym and swim,' " Fagerstrom said. "It's not."
He said that 70 percent of the non-profit's budget is devoted to child care.
"The building is just a tool to help meet the Y's mission," he added.
Bower said people need only look 20 miles away to see the success of the East Lycoming YMCA that was built just a few years ago. That facility, which also is a member of the River Valley Regional YMCA, has more than 4,000 members, which surpasses the city's membership numbers.
"We don't need to guess what we need for a new Y," he said.
Bower added that Susquehanna Health already owns about 80 percent of the land to be used for a new YMCA. A spokeswoman for Susquehanna confirmed that 14 additional properties - mostly rentals - will need to be purchased to make room for the new Y.
Williamsport Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, who was in attendance at the announcement, said he fully supports the move for a new facility and thinks the relationship with Susquehanna Health is a positive one.
Campana said he is not concerned about properties being taken off the tax rolls because he envisions new tax-generating uses for the old YMCA building once it's sold. The mayor said the old building can be used for residential, retail, office and green space.
Fagerstrom said $1.3 million has been raised so far from donors. Bower said the Y should receive another almost $4 million from what is called new markets tax credits. According to a U.S. Department of Treasury website, the NMTC program was established by Congress in 2000 to spur new or increased investments into operating businesses and real estate projects located in low-income communities.
The balance would be made up from additional community donations.
Fagerstrom said construction could begin this September with a completion date just a year after that.