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Published: Saturday, 9/12/2009

Newest, flashiest YMCA to open in West Toledo

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Opening this weekend within Toledo city limits is the newest, biggest, and flashiest YMCA of the greater Toledo system - titles long ceded to the suburbs.

The new $8.2 million home of the West Toledo YMCA, 2020 Tremainsville Rd., boasts more than 75,000 square feet and is three times the size of the old West Toledo branch it replaces.

It is the largest of the YMCA's 11 branches and is slightly bigger than the Y's Fort Meigs Center for Health Promotion in Perrysburg, now ranked No. 2. The building is the first entirely new YMCA to be built inside Toledo in more than 50 years, a period that saw several city Ys close as the organization followed the demographic movement of families to suburbs.

"We are very excited that this building exists in the city of Toledo," said Todd Tibbits, YMCA senior vice president of operations. "That is something I think we can all be proud of."

The West Toledo project also represents a first-ever building partnership between the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo and Toledo Public Schools, with the two connected financially as well as by bricks and mortar.

Members may tour the new building today during an open-house celebration that starts with a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting and runs to 6 p.m. The Y will officially open for workouts on Monday morning.

The new YMCA is a mix of new construction and reuse of fully renovated portions of the former Start High School building. An interior walkway bridges the Y to the new Start, which opened last year on what was once the site of YMCA's Bowman Pool that was sold to TPS in 2005 for $1.2 million and demolished.

"This for me is one of the most exciting parts of the building," Mr. Tibbits said yesterday at the walkway's entrance. "This connects to Start High School, and the Y and the school now have such a wonderful opportunity for partnership."

Construction of the new Y started last year. The old building, which fronts the new Start High School on Tremainsville, is to be turned over to Toledo Public Schools, which is unsure of its future use or demolition.

As West Toledo residents celebrate their new Y today, many south-enders remain anxious about the future of their own branch.

The South Toledo YMCA, which opened at about the same time as the old West Toledo building in 1954, could close this year if residents do not meet the Y leaders' challenge of selling 500 new, branch-only memberships by Nov. 26.

YMCA executives say the aging South Y long has been shedding members and losing more than $200,000 a year in operations and maintenance costs. But loyal South Toledo branch members insist that the YMCA lost interest in the building long ago and allowed it to deteriorate without mounting a capital campaign.

The most stunning of the new construction at the West Toledo YMCA includes two indoor swimming pool areas. The shallower pool features zero-depth entry, shooting geysers, and a bright yellow, 130-foot-long corkscrew water slide. Lap swimmers may enjoy the six-lane, 25-yard pool.

The basketball courts and auditorium of the old Start High School have been incorporated into the new Y. The auditorium, which seats 933 people, will continue to be used by Start students for assemblies and other school programs.

But the high school's old wrestling room has a completely new use - a workout center with 16 spinning bikes and several TRX Suspension Trainer machines. Also included in the face-lifts were the school's band and choir areas. These spaces house the Y's new fitness center, featuring dozens of flat-screen TV-equipped cardio machines and new weight-lifting equipment.

The Y's central hall, lobby, and guest services areas were also once part of the high school.

Mr. Tibbits said the Y is responsible for about $6.5 million of the project's $8.2 million total price, with TPS shouldering the remaining costs.

Rehabilitation proved financially beneficial for both entities, as the Y gained an existing hardwood floor gym and other spaces while the school district saved the costs of constructing another auditorium.

Schools Superintendent John Foley said the Y project is a "win-win" for the district and the YMCA, and that several types of collaborations are expected in the future.

"This is something that's going to be an asset to the community." Mr. Foley said.

Although Start's students will not be automatic Y members, their families may purchase reduced-price Y memberships.

NorthPoint Church is another partner in the West Toledo Y project.

The Christian church plans to move its Sunday services into the Y's auditorium from its current ministry at West Laskey Road near Harvest Lane.

In lieu of rent, the church made a $500,000 donation to the building's capital campaign.

Mr. Tibbits said the Y so far has raised about half of its $6.5 million share of the project's costs, and hopes to raise an additional $1 million in the capital campaign. The Y is banking on membership dues to finance the remainder of the costs.

The West Toledo YMCA has 1,800 memberships and hopes to grow that number in its new facility, he said.

The new West Toledo Y was designed by the Toledo architecture firm SSOE Inc. Rudolph-Libbe was the general contractor for the project's new construction, and the three-way partnership LGB handled renovations of the old Start building.

The LGB trio - The Lathrop Co. of Maumee, R. GantLLC of Toledo, and Barton Malow Company of Southfield, Mich. - work with TPS on school construction projects.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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