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    Aging YMCA to be rebuilt

    The 1966 building will be transformed in stages. An outdoor playground will be built in November.

    By CHRISTINA K. COSDON, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 30, 2002

    CLEARWATER -- Only a ceremonial sledgehammer will be used tonight to kick off a $3.5-million renovation and expansion project of the old Clearwater branch YMCA building.

    Construction won't actually begin until some time in December, said Tim Ackerman, the YMCA of the Suncoast's vice president of building and grounds.

    The 60,000-square-foot, single-story building at 1005 S Highland Ave. will be gutted and rebuilt. Built in 1966, the building was ideal for its uses in the '60s and '70s, Ackerman said, but technology has advanced and program needs have changed.

    "We're planning a total facelift of the interior and some small fixes to the exterior," Ackerman said. The construction work will be done in stages to allow members continued use of the facilities. FleischmanGarcia Architecture, Tampa, is the architect.

    When the project is completed by the end of next year, Ackerman said, there will be a new entranceway and lobby, an expanded wellness center, an expanded indoor children's play area, new locker rooms, a center for teenagers and a youth center for younger children, hardwood floors in the gym and a new aerobics studio and plenty of multipurpose space. The six-lane swimming pool also will sport a "prettier" look.

    "It's going to be a stunning facility," Ackerman said.

    More than half the money has been raised for the project.

    "We've raised $2.2-million," said Scott Goyer, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of the Suncoast, which serves more than 52,000 members and program participants in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.

    The funds include a $1-million matching grant from the Eckerd Family Foundation, "of which $775,000 has been received," Goyer said.

    * * *

    The Clearwater branch also is to get a new outdoor playground valued at $50,000, Goyer said.

    That playground will be built on three of the facility's five racquetball courts. Plans call for it to be constructed Nov. 22 under the direction of KaBOOM!, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that specializes in bringing communities and businesses together to build playgrounds throughout the country. Home Depot will be working with KaBOOM!. Einstein Bagels will provide breakfast for the volunteer workers, and Outback Steakhouse will provide lunch.

    To be a volunteer on the playground project, call the Clearwater YMCA at 461-9622.

    -- Christina K. Cosdon can be reached at 445-4154 or

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