Capital campaign for new Calhoun County YMCA underway

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

July 23, 2013 at 2:23 a.m.
Updated July 24, 2013 at 2:24 a.m.

Space is as tight as the muscles at the Calhoun County YMCA.

On July 22, the YMCA launched the community phase of its capital campaign to raise money for an expanded facility at a new location.

"We're packed to the gills; we're so busy that people are on top of each other," said Michele Morales, executive director of Calhoun County YMCA. "Members don't want to wait for fitness equipment, they want it readily available, even during peak times."

The plan is to purchase the 70,500-square-foot building that formerly housed Wal-Mart and the 17.5 acres on which it sits.

After the initial purchase of $1.79 million and interior remodeling investment of $980,000, the property will sustain itself. More than half of the space, 37,500 square feet, is leased to five businesses that generate enough revenue to cover the mortgage, said Bob Coen, YMCA board member and capital campaign captain.

Renovation of the 33,000-square-foot space that the YMCA will occupy will be completed in two phases.

Phase one will include the transition and upgrade of fitness equipment, group exercise space, a nursery and development of two outdoor soccer fields.

An outdoor lap and family swimming pool and an indoor sports gymnasium will wrap up the project in phase two.

The multipurpose rooms, also part of the first phase, will provide space for summer camps, after-school programs and special activities, such as Kids Night Out. One evening each month, parents can leave their children in a safe environment while they enjoy an evening out.

The YMCA has rented space from Calhoun High School and the city of Port Lavaca for camps, special programs and athletics.

More youth sports will be available without the restrictions of school gym availability, said Chris Seilkop, YMCA of the Golden Crescent CEO.

The Learning Center Theater, also in phase one, will offer space for supplemental learning. Computers and projectors will be available for various community programs.

More than 200 mentors and tutors involved with Partners in Education will have a place to meet their students. The organization partners with area industry, regional businesses and community members with the school district to help it achieve academic excellence.

Billy Wiggins, YMCA board member, capital campaign captain and Calhoun County school district superintendent, will identify learning opportunities that will benefit children heading into the world not prepared.

"Growing up and raising kids is difficult," said Coen. "This is something the community can do to help them cross the line."

Paul Bunnell, who is a doctor of internal medicine, a YMCA board member and capital campaign captain, has already begun developing a program to help prevent juvenile and adult diabetes.

"There is no end to the possibilities," Coen said.

The Calhoun County YMCA is the only full-service gym in the county. Most of its 3,000 members live in Port Lavaca, but others in the county use the facility as well. For example, a group of eight to 10 seniors carpool from Port O'Connor three mornings per week, Morales said.

The YMCA rented its current space in an old shopping mall on Virginia Street from Memorial Medical Center until the building changed hands in 2009.

The developer who purchased the property tripled the rent and cut the space from 13,500 to 6,700 square feet. When the facility lost its lap pool and nearly 50 percent of its space, the association lost more than 100 members, Coen said.

"It's a top priority for the community," Seilkop said. "Now, we rent space that limits activities and overall usage."

The projected move-in date is Dec. 16.

"The new facility will allow us to offer everything under one roof with ample space," Morales said. "The YMCA will be the community hub, a place where people can socialize, become well and learn."



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