The sounds of construction filled the air at the Chilliwack YMCA Thursday, as dignitaries, employees and members celebrated the official groundbreaking of their new building.
The $10 million project will include the reconstruction of the main (east) building area, and a massive refurbishing of the pool and daycare areas.
“For those of you who remember what the inside of the Y looked like, I hope that stays in your memory because it’s pretty much gone now,” said Steve Butz, president and CEO of the YMCA Greater Vancouver. “The building has been gutted and pretty soon this whole side of the building is going to be gone.”
It’s a massive project, with the reopening scheduled for sometime in September 2018. He gave credit to everyone in the community who pulled together to make it possible.
“You’ve heard today how projects like this come to be, and I can’t say enough that when people come together, amazing things that can happen,” Butz said. “It’s amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.”
The groundbreaking also brought out Dr. Graydon Meneilly, board chair for the YMCA of Greater Vancouver. He spoke to the YMCA’s importance in a community, and in his own life growing up in Saskatchewan.
“As a medical practitioner, I know the important role that the Y plays in the health of our communities, families and children,” Meneilly said. “The Y tackles some of our communities’ toughest issues — inactivity, chronic disease, and increased feelings of isolation and loneliness. To face these challenges we need safe spaces and places, social infrastructure that brings all people together and is inclusive to all.”
He cited a recent study that suggests loneliness could be the next big public health issue, equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
“We’re here to invest in the community for many years to come so that a generation of children and families can reach their full potential,” Meneilly said. “When I came off the farm and first went to the Y… I learned how to swim, which saved my life when I lived in Australia. I learned how to defend myself, which saved my life when I was playing hockey in rural Saskatchewan, and as a counsellor I learned leadership skills that have lasted me a lifetime.”
The Chilliwack YMCA announced the project last October, with the City of Chilliwack announcing a $1 million contribution shortly after that. The new centre will be 36,700 square feet, which is 25 per cent bigger than the existing facility.
“The Chilliwack YMCA serves more than 6,500 people each year,” said Karen Price, general manager of the Chilliwack YMCA. “But the needs of our city are growing and we need a new centre of community to meet those needs – a place where everyone, regardless of background or financial circumstance, can belong and reach their potential.”
Thursday’s celebration included an exuberant performance by the Chilliwack School of the Performing Arts, and when it came time to shovel the dirt, a handful of young children were there to lend a hand.
The facility will be funded through YMCA sources, the City of Chilliwack and a YMCA community campaign. It will allow the staff to offer new programs, including physical literacy programs, more adult group fitness classes, have expanded pool hours and book more swimming lessons.
It will include a new, 4,250 sq ft. gymnasium, five multipurpose rooms, a 5,700 sq ft. conditioning floor, a social area, CycleFit studio, family/universal change room, and an outdoor playground outside the childminding area.
There will also be major renovations with an expanded lobby and welcome area, group fitness studio, stretching and adaptive space, childminding area, and pool.
The Chilliwack YMCA is offering pop-up programming throughout the community during the building’s closure. Visit the Chilliwack YMCA online for more information.