YMCA board greenlights community & aquatics center despite funding gap

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 2:15 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The Watertown Family YMCA is moving forward with construction on its $27.5 million community and aquatics project.

Purcell Construction will be tasked with doing the work.

“There was a lot of remediation, a lot of tearing down and now it’s let’s build this thing, so very excited,” said YMCA Chief Executive Officer Denise Young.

The new facility will include a 6-lane lap pool and adjacent recreational pool, multi-sport courts, indoor track, full wellness center, classrooms, and child watch facilities.

“What this means to the community is that we will have a better, stronger community for future generations and that is why the Y board is so committed to making this happen,” said Young.

One of the many challenges of getting to this point was funding. Recently, the Y asked Jefferson County for $880,000. Lawmakers said no. In response, the county’s local development corporation and industrial development agency teamed up to make sure the money was available.

A show of good faith that Young says kept this going in the right direction.

“They understand the impact that this has on our community, and so you know the community support all across this has been tremendous, we’re so grateful,” she said.

The project will also be funded through a $9 million federal Department of Defense grant as well as state funding and a grant from National Grid.

However, close to $7.5 million will still need to be acquired and Young says the Y will look for equity investment, debt financing and pending grants to fill that gap.

She says the project will take 18 months with an estimated completion of fall 2023.

The following is a news release from the Watertown YMCA about its community and aquatics center project:

The Watertown Family YMCA Board of Directors has approved Purcell Construction to move to the next phase of the construction of a new state-of-the-art YMCA facility in the heart of downtown Watertown.

The $27.5 million project will completely renovate the 89,000 square foot building that formerly housed a call center and before that, Woolworths Department Store.

The new facility will include a brand-new natatorium complete with a 6-lane lap pool and adjacent recreational pool, multi-sport courts, indoor track, full wellness center, classrooms, and child watch facilities. The new facility will enable the YMCA to host state level competitive swim meets, expand preventative health services in the community, and significantly enhance programs and amenities moving from the current downtown location upon completion.

The current building owner, the Jefferson County Industry Development Agency partnered with the YMCA to help secure $9 million in funding from the federal Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation.

This OLDCC priority project was selected for funding given its strategic location and ability to improve quality of life for military families in the greater Fort Drum area.

The IDA also completed a complex environmental remediation of this empty aging downtown building. Their completion of this remediation phase has now paved the way for the YMCA to begin redevelopment and turn this cornerstone downtown property into a prominent centerpiece that complements surrounding businesses, provides vital services to the neighboring affordable community and significantly enhances amenities to its members and the broader community.

Given the projects many positive impacts on the community, it has attracted significant investment from federal, state, and local sources. In addition to the federal investment previously outlined, the project has been awarded $3,600,000 in state funding, a $250,000 grant from National Grid, and received $4,100,000 in local donations which includes a lead and matching gift from the Northern NY Community Foundation, with the final phase of the Transforming Community Campaign about to begin. A combination of equity investment, debt financing and other pending grant funding will provide the remaining sources of funding for the project. In total the project will take 18 months to complete with an estimated completion of fall 2023.

“We are grateful for the tremendous community support and are pleased to move to the next phase of both the construction and the campaign.” Stated Denise Young, YMCA Chief Executive Officer. “The culmination of this project will impact our community’s health and wellbeing for generations to come.”

Kevin Jordan, YMCA Board President notes “The YMCA Board of Directors is excited to move to the next phase in the development of a modern YMCA facility. We want to thank the many organizations, agencies and individuals that have helped us take a vision and concept and take this critical step in making this complex project a reality.”

JCIDA Executive Director, David Zembiec states “So many former commercial buildings of this size sit idle in downtown locations for years. We can’t think of a better reuse of this site as we watch it transformed and revitalized into a new YMCA facility that will complement the downtown area, make Jefferson County a more attractive destination for workers and businesses, support our Fort Drum neighbors, and further enhance the value of the public and private investment previously made in the surrounding downtown area.”

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