Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 22, 2013

YMCA nears finish line


---- — TRAVERSE CITY — It’s been a long, difficult road to unveil a new community YMCA: fundraising for the $17 million project collected $12 million, much of it in the headwinds of an economic collapse that spurred questions about the project’s viability.

Those questions are now in the past with a Spring 2014 finish line in sight for the new recreational facility on Silver Lake Road. Project leaders are raising $500,000 more from the public as construction workers put the final touches on the property’s exterior frame.

Members of the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA Board of Directors couldn’t be happier. They credit strong support from the business community, the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, and numerous private donors for making the spring opening a reality.

“It feels great,” said Marc Judge, past president of the YMCA Board of Directors and an executive at Traverse City State Bank. “There’s been a lot of community support for getting this Y going.”

Board members said there’s palpable excitement in the community, too. Classified ads for real estate in the Silver Lake Road area boast close proximity to the new Y. Current Y Board President Lynn Schultz predicts the Y will be an asset not just for users, but also business leaders who seek to bring new workers to northern Michigan.

“I remember when I moved here 23 years ago, thinking what a beautiful community we have, but it needs a new Y,” Schultz said. “The people who come to live in Traverse City, many of them are very health-minded, and having the ability to have a facility with a pool and a workout center and family center is a wonderful asset. It will help bring people to Traverse City.”

Project leaders gave the Record-Eagle a look this week of what the facility will look like when complete. Highlights include:

n A 20,000-square-foot aquatics center that features an 8-lane competition pool with diving well and spectator seating. The movement to build the new Y was due in part to northern Michigan’s abnormally high rate of youth drownings and a lack of facilities for swim lessons.

n A 7,000-square-foot fitness center offering cardio, free-weights, an aerobic studio and spinning room. The new Y also will include an indoor running track.

n A 43,650-square-foot tennis center to include six hard courts.

n Common areas include lounges, meeting rooms, child watch areas, wet, dry and family lockers, concession stand, and outdoor fields connected to the TART Trail system. A large gymnasium will be built at a later date.

Judge and Tom Van Deinse, the YMCA’s CEO, acknowledged tough times along the way for a project that began in January 2000. Chief among them was the 2008 economic collapse, when real estate values plummeted.

“We touched a lot of people up until that 2008 to 2009 time frame when the economy fell,” Judge said. “There was a lack of momentum and a lack of belief, quite honestly, that this could be accomplished.”

Local businessman Paul Schmuckal helped lead philanthropic efforts to revive the project as did Jeanne Snow and Phil Ellis of the Community Foundation. Private donors Rob and Phyllis Foster also played a huge role; they offered a $2 million challenge pledge if Y leaders could raise $4 million in a five-month window in 2011.

The money poured in and cemented the Fosters’ $2 million donation. The aquatics center is named in their honor.

“We expect it’s going to triple membership,” Van Deinse said. “That’s a conservative estimate.”