MOUNT VERNON — Members walking inside the new main entrance to the YMCA of Mount Vernon, which faces Sugar Street, are greeted with a modern lobby area and a spacious counter where employees are no longer crowded elbow to elbow.
On the other side of the hall, two conferences rooms provide plenty of meeting space. They were completed in Phase I of the $3.4 million, three-phase renovation project that started about a year ago. Executive Director Nick Clark, in his current position since 2010, said the large conference room is being used as temporary staff offices until Phase II is complete. And that should be by the end of the year, he said.
“We’re getting there. We’re ready for it to be done,” Clark said. “The most amazing thing about this entire project is how we have managed to stay open throughout its entirety, thanks in large part to the support of our members and a caring, giving community.”
The completed Phase I encompassed the new lobby area, counter, and conference rooms, new heating, venting and air cooling (HVAC) throughout the facility, and extensive plumbing upgrades. The former main entrance off of North Main Street, and the much smaller lobby it led into, is now a distant memory.
“When we opened this area on August 19,” he said of the lobby, “it was a new way for people to get downstairs to the pool, locker rooms and adult fitness classes. The stairs to get down there (near the lobby) were always there. You have to think about it as a relearning of the building.”
Phase II of the project is nearing completion and should happen by the end of the year, Clark said. It involves renovation of common areas, such as hallways, building restrooms, new staff offices, an improved preschool/childcare area that will include security access cards for entry, and a lot of work in the large fitness center area where all of the cardio and weight machines are located.
The front-facing side of the fitness area, which looks out onto North Main Street, is going through a windows upgrade — a major one, with the area being cordoned off with large tarps of see-through plastic. The old windows are being replaced by four new ones — each of them to be nearly 16 feet high. It is part of the YMCA’s new focus on better lighting throughout the building, Clark added. The playground outside has also been improved and now includes fencing.
Clark said the work contractor Modern Builders have done, without complaint, has gone above and beyond what was called for. As one example, the entire electrical panel that controls all power in the building had to be shut down to do some renovating.
“The contractor made sure that we had a generator hooked up to the pool, and another generator powering the childcare room so we didn’t have any down time,” he said.
The YMCA of Mount Vernon opened in 1965 and it’s important that it remain a recognizable bedrock community building. To that end, Clark said, Phase III, which should be completed in the spring of next year, will involve new landscaping and a retooled parking lot.
There have also been upgrades made to the 17,000 square-foot YMCA Sports Center at 200 W. Chestnut Street. A new tile flooring greets visitors and members, as does a new counter area. The center is home to three pickleball courts, basketball recreation, and a YMCA Gymnastics Team with 50 members that competes against other YMCA teams, while having 100 more members who are in “progressive” programming. It means they are getting more advanced in their sport as they learn.
“Think of it like swim lessons, going on to the next highest lesson,” Clark said.
The childcare program has its own preschool curriculum and those children have access to all YMCA resources including the pool and gymnastics, Clark said. The childcare area still under renovation on the main floor of the YMCA building is often mistaken for the Child Watch program, he said, also on the main floor, during which YMCA staff members watch the children of parents who are engaged in workout and fitness activities for up to 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The philanthropy of Knox County residents is truly remarkable, Clark said in reference to renovation projecting funding. The Ariel Foundation gave $1.5 million in matching funds, which individual donors have matched. The Knox County Foundation came through with its largest-ever donation of $300,000 that has helped keep project momentum intact, Clark offered. Then Ariel Foundation stepped up its giving ways once again with a grant of $400,000 to bring back some of the original signage for placement in front of the building.
“These are the finishing touches that will add polish to the building,” he said. “We are so lucky with our donors. “We should never take for granted they are using their resources to improve our community including our building for the good of all, yet are under no obligation to do so.”
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