Room for growth

YMCA hopes to pick site of SW center next week


Published: Saturday, January 24, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 23, 2004 at 11:47 p.m.

The North Central Florida YMCA next week is expected to pick a site for a new southwest Gainesville recreation center, part of a planned $3.5 million construction and expansion plan.

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Ryan Hoover, 8, in orange, of the Hidden Oak basketball team, looks to pass the ball Thursday while opponents in blue, Maxwell Curtis, 7 (No. 5), and Matthew Ruppert, 8, of the Gainesville Country Day School team defend their goal at North Central Florida YMCA on NW 34th Street. The first game of the eight-week season ended 6-6. The Northwood YMCA has plans to expand while an additional facility is in the works.

CHRISTINA STUART/The Gainesville Sun

Facts

FYI: YMCA LOCATIONS

  • Northwood Center - 5201 NW 34th St. Includes pool, wellness center, gymnasium, classrooms and space for gymnastics, karate and other programs. Will be expanded with additional fields, a senior/teen center, a dance studio and other upgrades.

  • McGurn Center - 1303 NE 23rd Ave. Includes pool, a hall with a stage. Future upgrades include renovation of locker rooms.

  • New center - Land is being sought in southwest Gainesville. It will be the largest YMCA center in Alachua County when completed.

  • Supporters say the new southwest YMCA will provide much-needed recreational facilities in the area while the expansion of current facilities is needed to keep pace with the continued growth of Gainesville.

    YMCA chief economic officer Shawn Patch said sites along Tower Road, Parker Road, Archer Road and SW 24th Avenue are being considered. About 20 acres is sought, and the organization expects to pay for the land with industrial bonds secured through the Alachua County Commission.

    "We hope by next week to have a site selected. Our board meets Monday. After that, we hope to know where it is and go after it," Patch said. "Some people have come out of the woodwork and were willing to lower the price because we are a YMCA. Whatever we do buy, I think you will see us collaborate with at least one church. If we bought 25 acres, the church would buy five to 10 and we would have shared parking and things like that."

    Patch said the YMCA last year had contracts to buy The Rock church facility on SW 24th Avenue to convert to a YMCA by this May, but the deal fell through because the church felt it would be too expensive to rebuild its school at a different site.

    The YMCA has plans to build the new southwest center and expand and renovate the Northwood YMCA on NW 34th Street and the McGurn Center YMCA on NE 23rd Avenue.

    The YMCA has approached the commission about issuing 20-year tax-free industrial bonds for $3.5 million to buy the land for the southwest site and expand the two existing facilities.

    The county's economic development advisory committee is expected to meet with the YMCA this week.

    Industrial bonds are issued by the county on behalf of a business to spur economic development. The business repays the bonds - the county has no liability.

    The YMCA would have to qualify for the bonds by meeting criteria regarding the economic, social and environmental impacts the project will have.

    "Industrial revenue bonds are a preferred way for a business to gain financing," said County Manager Randy Reid. "If the YMCA wants to use the industrial revenue bond process, they follow a process which includes a review of how it will use the bonds and whether the project meets a matrix."

    The YMCA had wanted to build on acreage it owns off Tower Road behind Wiles Elementary School and Kanapaha Middle School. However, it could not work out an arrangement with the Alachua County School Board over public access to the land.

    That 22-acre tract is zoned multifamily of medium and high densities and will be sold. Patch believes it will fetch more than $1 million. The money from the sale will be used for construction at the southwest YMCA.

    Patch said the new YMCA will have 20,000 to 40,000 square feet.

    It would include a 50-meter swimming pool, fields for various sports, a large gymnasium, a fitness center, classrooms and other features.

    Area resident Alison Law, who has long spearheaded drives for increased recreation areas throughout the county and particularly the southwest, predicted the facility will be a hit with children and adults.

    "Anything that opens in this area is going to get filled to breaking point very quickly and be able to make a profit," Law said.

    The Northwood expansion will include a teen/senior center, a kids' room with an attached playground, a dance studio, a new karate room, a preschool center, offices, additional fields and a larger fitness center with more cardio machines. The total size of Northwood will be 13,000 square feet.

    Work at the McGurn center will include renovation of the locker room and a cover for the basketball courts, Patch said.

    Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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