Family YMCA holds groundbreaking for new facility

After years of work by several committees to create a community recreation center in Vandalia, about 50 people took part in a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday that kicks off the construction phase of that dream.

The Family Y of Fayette County’s new home will be built on a 4-acre tract east of Rock Island Avenue, just across the street from the Kaskaskia College campus. The actual location of the building will be east of Miller Field, which fronts on Rock Island.

The $1.25-million, 16,952-square-foot building will include a full-sized gymnasium, a weightlifting and cardio area, a walking track, a multi-purpose room and locker rooms.

Recently added to the facility plans is a 23-foot extension to the end of the building to house a racquetball court and a batting cage, to be built when funding becomes available.

“This facility will bring a higher quality of life to the community,” Rick Gottman, mayor of Vandalia, told the crowd at the groundbreaking. “I encourage the community to help fund the remaining part of the project.”

Gottman is president of the Old Capital Foundation board, which provided $1 million for the facility.

Though several Vandalia businesses and individuals have made significant donations to the building project, approximately $175,000 remains to be raised to fund the entire facility.

Donations of any size are appreciated, YMCA officials said.

“I’m excited for the Y,” Rick Myers, president of the Family Y’s board of directors, said after Tuesday’s ceremony.

“We’re hopeful that in six months we’ll have a building up that will allow us to offer programs to people of all ages – from youths to senior citizens. Having everything in one location will be very beneficial to families, allowing parents to work out while their kids participate in youth sports.”

YMCA Executive Director John Ashdown said that the building will help the organization in several ways.

“For one thing, it will eliminate the barrier that our current second-story location presents to the handicapped and seniors,” he said.

“It also will allow us to run our programs better, because we will be doing them in our own facility.

"It will allow us to be more like what people expect from a YMCA – they want a building with a basketball court, and weightlifting and cardio facilities.

"For people looking to move to Vandalia, it shows that we have something to offer them that a lot of small towns don’t have," Ashdown said.

He said that the recent decision to expand the footprint of the building to be able to accommodate the future addition of a racquetball court and a baseball batting cage makes sense for the Y. “The batting cage will give kids in our biggest program a place to practice,” he said. “And we have several people who use the racquetball court in our current facility that want one in our new building.”

Though the YMCA building no longer will be built on Kaskaskia College property, as was earlier planned, Ashdown said that he still anticipates a close, cooperative relationship with the college.

“We want to be able to work with Kaskaskia College on programming,” Ashdown said. “We hope that they will be able to offer recreational classes in our building. We also hope to work out an agreement to allow KC students to use our facility.”

The YMCA also has worked cooperatively with the Miller family to use the land directly in front of the new building site. The YMCA leases the 6.6-acre property from the Millers for use as playing fields.

Ashdown also noted that several local contractors are involved in the project, so the money being spent on the building will stay in the area.

“After working on this project for so many years, it’s a great feeling that it’s finally coming to fruition,” Ashdown said.

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