YMCA looks to next phase of project

YMCA looks to next phase of project

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign County YMCA today announced the public phase of a $7 million capital campaign that will enable its move to southwest Champaign.

The YMCA has already raised $3 million toward that goal, Chief Executive Officer Wade Hampton said. The Y hopes to raise enough in the next six months to enable it to start building a 65,000-square-foot facility off Windsor Road east of the Zahnd Park athletic fields.

In the meantime, the YMCA has put its McKinley Center on Champaign's Church Street up for sale. An interested buyer opted out of a deal last year after interest rates went up. But YMCA leaders figure a full city block so close to downtown Champaign will eventually attract a buyer.

"We are open to offers," said Jeff Davis, president of the YMCA's board of directors. "This is a valuable piece of real estate in the heart of Champaign and would be attractive ... for condominiums, educational or recreational uses."

The new facility in southwest Champaign would replace the building at 500 W. Church St. – which has housed YMCA activities for 70 years – as well as the Family Fitness Center the Y leases at 707 N. Country Fair Drive in Champaign.

The YMCA had to scale back plans for the new building, which it initially planned to share with the Carle Foundation. Carle had planned to move sports medicine offices there, but announced last June it was bowing out of the project.

Hampton said the building will still have the core components the Y wanted, including a gymnasium, indoor aquatic center and dedicated gymnastics area.

The building – which is designed for expansion – will also include a wellness center with fitness and strength equipment, an area for supervised child care, multipurpose community rooms and administrative offices.

The total cost of building and equipping the new Y is projected at $10 million. David Hood, the capital campaign chairman, said the $3 million not covered by the capital campaign will be covered by debt financing.

Hampton said about 1,000 people were canvassed for donations when the YMCA launched its original capital campaign in 1938. That's about how many people the YMCA needs commitments from to proceed with the new building, he said.

Hampton noted the YMCA is not a taxing body and can't look to taxpayers to underwrite the new building.

"This is a community project that requires community support," he said, adding that about 150 volunteers – both YMCA members and nonmembers – will be asking people for commitments.

In the meantime, if people want to donate directly, they may do so at the YMCA's Web site, www.ccymca.net.

Those who would like to help with the campaign or want to be contacted by a volunteer can reach Hampton at 239-2801 or at whampton@ccymca.net.

A groundbreaking for the new facility is expected this spring, but when actual construction begins depends on the success of the capital campaign, Hampton said. For now, the YMCA is projecting that the building should be complete by the winter of 2009.

Hood said the facility on Church Street "does not have unlimited life, and we're coming to the end of the lifespan at that location."

"At some point, repairs and maintenance are not a good investment, compared with a new facility," he said.

The capital campaign is being conducted at the same time as the annual YMCA Strong Kids campaign, which provides financial assistance to children and families who can't afford to pay program fees.

Last year's Strong Kids campaign made it possible for 2,836 people to be involved in YMCA programs such as swim lessons, gymnastics, family camp, youth sports, team leadership programs and after-school care.

"We are joining the capital campaign with our annual fundraising for financial assistance so that we can continue to serve people across the breadth of our communities," Davis said.

Bob and Kathy Keller are acting as co-chairs of the Strong Kids campaign.

"The YMCA's mission is based on serving all people in the community," a statement from the Kellers said. "This fund ensures that no one is turned away for the inability to pay."

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