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Sunday April 20th 2014

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What would the new downtown YMCA look like?

YMCA logo

One of the hottest topics downtown is the proposal that the YMCA relocate its downtown facility to the Community Maritime Park. The YMCA board hasn’t said much yet on the idea, but I found in my notes of a report that outlines what the YMCA does for the community and what the facility may include.

Early last year, the YMCA conducted a planning study to determine the availability of funds and resources to develop a new downtown YMCA. After interviewing community leaders, the Y realized a new Downtown facility was needed because the existing facility does not adequately meet the current and future needs of the community. The non-profit needed to raise $10-$12 million for the project and before any capital campaign was launched the YMCA needed to secure property for the new facility.

In a Community Benefit Report given to the Mayor’s Urban Advisory Committee, YMCA CEO Michael Bodenstein wrote:

“A new YMCA facility located in Downtown Pensacola will provide those who live and work in the community with a hub for recreation, health and wellness. A new facility will expand and extend our ability to meet the growing needs of the youth, teens, families and seniors in our area. Many indicated that, a central Downtown location is a needed economic catalyst for further development in the community.”

Some Y Facts submitted by Bodenstein to URAC:

In 2011 the Y:
Served: 10,000 people
Financial Assistance and Subsidies: $473,000
Contributed Income from the Community: $252,000
Government Funding That Helps Us Provide Needed Services (includes grants, contracts and vouchers): $122,000

The Y reaches about 5,000 youth each year, providing a wide range of activities to nurture potential and growth, including teen leadership, sports leagues, and affordable, quality childcare.

• In collaboration with Escambia School System, every October, we host a safe trick or treat Halloween event to 300 special needs children who normally would not be able to.
• Each year, we provide 650 school-age and middle school children a safe, nurturing after-school program, located at 13 sites. On average, about 40% are receiving scholarship.
• Each year, approximately 2,000 children participate in Y sports.
• Each year, we teach about 1,600 youth swim lesson.

The idea of family is central to the Y mission. We believe healthy families produce strong communities and are built by doing activities together within the family unit and the community. YMCAs provide ways to involve the whole family in healthy living.

• We provide activities open to everyone in our community, including physical activities, fitness evaluations, nutrition advice and more
• On average, about 10% of our members receive some sort financial assistance with membership.
• We reach out to health seekers who are new to exercise and may feel intimidated or overwhelmed.
• Many of today’s active older adults adopt a lifestyle filled with active hobbies, travel and volunteerism. The Y has responded by offering group fitness classes such as water aerobics, yoga, Spinning, Pilates, and Silver Sneakers that are senior-friendly, plus a safe and non-intimidating environment for strength training.

As a far as the new building the YMCA told URAC:

A recent independent study confirmed that the YMCA is uniquely positioned to partner with a local hospital and other community partners to provide a Y that will be a centerpiece of the new Healthy Lifestyle Village. It will be a unique place where people can learn and improve their health and quality of life.

Conceptually, a combination of private and public funding could make possible a new 40,000-square-foot YMCA that will serve residents, particularly in the underserved areas of Pensacola. With modern workout equipment, nutrition counseling and supportive staff, the Y will support lifelong health enthusiasts and first-time health seekers in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.

Proposed highlights of a new facility could include:
• Indoor pool
• Gymnasium
• 6,000 square-foot state-of-the-art Fitness Center
• Multi-purpose Group Fitness Rooms
• Family Prime Time Center/Teen Center
• Child Watch Center
• Indoor Climbing Wall
• Outdoor Education Center (including walking trails) and much more!

Seventy-five percent of the households in the immediate vicinity of the desired location have an annual income of less than $50,000, and 62% of children receive free or reduced-price school lunches. The community needs organized, safe, accessible programs for youth, teens, seniors and families for all ages. A new YMCA will be that place for the residents of Pensacola for generations to come.