Construction for new downtown YMCA to begin on July 22

By Michelle Ownbey

The groundbreaking held in March for the new YMCA facility at Fourth and Carpenter streets involved golden shovels and photo ops, but the actual construction work is now set to begin on Monday, July 22. Mike Sunley, senior project manager with O’Shea Builders, said he anticipates the project will create 210 direct jobs and another 99 indirect jobs, with $25 million of the $33 million total budget going toward construction costs.

In February 2018, Illinois Times broke the news that Memorial Medical Center was in discussions with the YMCA of Springfield to help build a new downtown facility to replace the outdated building at 701 S. Fourth St. The following month, Memorial Medical Center kick-started the fundraising with an $8 million donation, later increased to $9 million. Developer Joe Hurwitz and Paul Wheeler, an architect with FWAI Architects in Springfield, unveiled the preliminary construction plans at a meeting of the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association on March 13.

However, officials from the YMCA later tweaked the initial plans based on feedback received from a market survey of the area, a survey distributed to current members and community forums open to the public. “All of those sources were used to make decisions,” said Kris Fulford, chief operating officer, noting that original plans were expanded to include two large group exercise rooms and a dedicated room for spinning classes as well as two racquetball courts. “Those were big items for our membership base. They were very interested in making sure that continued,” said Fulford.

The new facility will also have a larger gym, with three half courts and an additional place for gymnastics to accommodate the growing programs. One new addition that neither of the YMCA locations currently offers is a functional fitness area appropriate for high-interval intensity training programs. “We have yet to decide if we’re going to be licensed for CrossFit, but it will be very similar to that type of area,” said Fulford.

At approximately 86,000-square-feet, the new facility will be the same size as the existing downtown YMCA, but development director Lynn Eck noted that a more efficient design will allow for additional amenities. “Being laid out in a more modern fashion, we can do more with the space,” said Eck. “We have a lot of hallways and closets now that aren’t necessarily utilized.”

The new downtown location will be approximately 40% larger than the Kerasotes YMCA on the west side of Springfield, and while most of the amenities will be similar, the increased size will allow for some additional features. “I get a lot of questions about the track,” said Fulford. “It had to be cut from Kerasotes, but the new facility will have a very large, nice indoor track area.”

The new downtown building will also have an 8-lane competition pool equal to the size of the pool at the Kerasotes location, plus a smaller pool intended to introduce children to swimming. “It won’t be a recreational pool like you’d see at outdoor facilities, but it will have zero entry on one side and go down to 3 ½ feet on the other end,” explained Eck.

Although construction is slated to begin next week, fundraising efforts are ongoing, according to Eck. “We had a goal of $6.5 million for our community fundraiser, and we are just about there,” she said. “We’re only $200,000 shy of that goal.”

In July 2018, the Springfield City Council approved $5.9 million in TIF funds to come from a combination of the Enos Park and Central Area TIF districts. YMCA officials are still waiting to learn whether the project will receive New Market Tax Credits, which Eck said would account for another $2-$2.5 million. “Whatever is remaining on the balance, we’ll finance.”

Fulford said she has appreciated the response so far from the public. “We’ve had tremendous support; the community has really gotten behind the project. It’s made our job a little bit easier for sure,” she said.

The new facility is scheduled to be complete by the fall of 2020.

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