The Statesboro Family YMCA received a $500,000 commitment from its parent YMCA in Savannah to get Phase 1 of the Statesboro facility - the repurposed gym of the old Sallie Zetterower Elementary School - ready for a first-quarter 2017 opening.
To build Phase 2, a new building adjoining the gym, the Statesboro Y will seek to raise $1 million in its founders' campaign. But the $500,000 startup investment from the YMCA of Coastal Georgia means the Statesboro Y will be able to refurbish the gym and begin offering programs there, said Bob Mikell, who chairs the Statesboro YMCA Steering Committee.
"So we're still on track first quarter, February or March, to open with the existing building," Mikell said. "Phase 2 is what we've got to raise the money for, and that's critical to me and, I think, a lot of other people."
On behalf of its newly chartered Statesboro branch, the YMCA of Coastal Georgia leased the former Sallie Z. School on East Jones Avenue in September from a limited liability company named South Main PTP and local contractor John Lavender. These private investors had purchased the eight-acre campus and its more than 50,000 square feet of buildings from the Bulloch County Board of Education for $1 million and made known their wish to see a YMCA built.
Following the plans announced in September, the YMCA had a contractor demolish one structure, the multisided or "octagonal" building that once housed kindergarten or prekindergarten classes. Its design and condition would have made it difficult to renovate, planners said, and its removal, accomplished mostly in November, clears the footprint Phase 2 is envisioned to fill.
For now, the demolition has opened up the west side of the gym for access from a planned parking lot. In Phase 1, the gym floor, measuring about 7,500 square feet, is proposed to become a fitness center with exercise equipment for adults and older youth. One of two existing classrooms in the gym is slated to house the YMCA's Child Watch program, providing activities for younger children while their parents work out in the fitness center.
Some rooms of the old school's two classroom wings may also be used for programs for youth and senior citizens.
Phase 1 refurbishment will include new windows for the gym, an entranceway, floorcoverings and paint, said Mikell and YMCA of Coastal Georgia CEO Joel Smoker. The regional Y's investment also includes the exercise equipment, and paving the parking area will be a significant cost, Smoker said.
Phase 2 will be critical for the Statesboro Y to fulfill its mission for children and teens, Mikell said, since Phase 1 displaces the gym from its original purpose. When Phase 2 is completed, the adult fitness center will move to the new building, and the current gym can then be used for youth activities including basketball and volleyball, he said.
Sketches for Phase 2 show a long building, parallel to the gym, adjoining it on the side facing the planned parking area. The new building is shown with multipurpose rooms that could be used for after-school activities or aerobics, and a spacious lobby taller than the rest of the building.
A conceptual drawing shows extensive use of glass, with transparent walls to let sunshine into the corner lobby. A large logo, "the Y," is depicted on the glass facing south toward Brannen Street.
This design for Phase 2 isn't locked in yet but is one that the YMCA leadership likes, Smoker said.
"We haven't taken it to the architects yet. We're still working on Phase 1," he said. "But that's a very friendly, very exciting, very vibrant type of design, full of open air, that we think is very attractive and think will be very attractive to people in the community."
Maxwell-Reddick & Associates of Statesboro is doing the civil engineering. The Savannah architectural firm Felder & Associates is designing Phase 1, for contractor bids to be taken soon after the start of the year, Smoker said.
He confirmed that the regional YMCA committed $500,000 to the project.
"That's the Y of Coastal Georgia's investment on the front side to get us going," Smoker said, "and then to bring to Statesboro an outstanding, first-class type of YMCA, that's where Phase 2 comes in."
Once the new branch is up and running, its operating revenues will be expected to repay some of the investment, he said.
But the $1 million to be raised in a local campaign will be for the Phase 2 expansion and not to repay the regional Y, Smoker said.
The Statesboro Y has pledge forms ready but has yet to begin the public phase of its campaign. So far, the fundraising has been limited to quiet contacts with foundations and corporations, Mikell said.
Besides fitness activities and informal mentoring, the steering committee has been discussing a literacy program, Y Readers, as a signature offering, he said. Many Y organizations around the country operate Y Readers programs, pairing children from first through third grade who read below grade level with teachers for after-school or summer instruction.
"We've just started initial conversations with the school board about whether that program would work in Statesboro, but we're also reaching out to groups like the library, the Ferst Foundation and Altrusa," Mikell said.
Another steering committee member is talking about creating a community garden or community orchard on the property, he said.
The understanding from Smoker has been that Phase 2 construction can begin once the new YMCA collects "the necessary million in pledges," according to Mikell.
"The hope is that we can reach this goal by the end of calendar 2017," he said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.