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    Clearwater YMCA plans $5.5-million upgrade

    As fundraising begins, YMCA officials say renovations will include a pool and gym area fix-up and a teen center.

    By LISA GREENE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- Barbara Dean has come to the Clearwater YMCA since her children were little.

    But those kids are teens now, and the Y is showing its age.

    That's why the organization is planning a $5.5-million renovation. There will be a new teen center, an indoor play gym for young children and new locker rooms. The pool, the gym and entrance area will all get face lifts.

    The improved building will be prettier but also more functional -- better for families, teens and people who are physically challenged, said Scott Goyer, president and chief executive of the YMCA of the Suncoast.

    "When the Ys were built in the 1960s, they weren't really designed for the way they're used today," Goyer said.

    The Clearwater Y, at 1005 S Highland Ave., was built in 1966. When it was expanded in 1972, it was the largest YMCA on one floor in the nation.

    But no major work has been done since then.

    The Y has just started raising money for the project. So far it has raised almost $700,000, Goyer said. Work is expected to begin by summer or fall.

    The work will be done in phases, and the Y will try to work around members, he said.

    Dean says she welcomes the changes. She was especially glad to hear that the pool tile will be replaced and the pool room renovated.

    "We go to Clearwater High (to swim) because I don't like that pool," she said as she worked out on a Y stair-step machine Friday. "It's dark and it looks cold."

    If the Y raises all the money it needs, the final phase of the project will put a new outdoor pool behind the building. Work on that phase probably is 18 months to two years away, Goyer said.

    Another Y member, Alex Kasheta, said he thinks the Y's plan to expand its teen programs is especially important. Getting teens involved in sports and other activities can help prevent teen violence, he said, pointing to the shooting Monday at a California high school that left two people dead and 13 injured.

    "They really pay attention to kids here," he said. "The more you can get them involved, the better. It helps build character."

    Plans also call for a new floor in the gym's aerobic studio and an expanded chapel. The children's play area will have large climbing and play equipment -- a significant change from the current children's room, which is well-stocked with toys but much simpler.

    The new locker rooms will include family and special needs changing areas. A new ramp will make the gym accessible to people in wheelchairs.

    The building will get improved plumbing, heating and electrical systems as well.

    It costs $75 to join the Y, then $36 each month for one adult and $51 for a family membership. Children, young adults, single-parent families and senior citizens receive discounted rates. The Y also charges on a sliding scale for people who cannot afford a regular membership, Goyer said.

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