$11.2M overhaul at YMCA in Pittsfield to begin in spring
PITTSFIELD — Senior women's backs arched during a chair yoga class at the Berkshire Family YMCA as toddlers lined up outside.
Across the hall, the nonprofit offers a family reunification program. Meanwhile, the tired building boasted blocked doorways, few windows and chipped beige paint. And missing ceiling tiles marked the spots of recent hazmat remediation efforts.
But, that's about to change. An $11.2 million overhaul soon will be underway at the historic North Street building that houses the local YMCA.
Allegrone Construction was selected to serve as project manager, and John Benzinger, of Skanska, will oversee the work as the owner's project manager. Construction is scheduled to begin in May.
Those behind the project say it will modernize the tired building, empowering the organization to expand its child care and wellness services. They also say the building's new facade will be a boon for downtown redevelopment.
"Optically, it's going to be a big deal for downtown," said Matt Scarafoni, a YMCA board member who has helped spearhead the project.
He likened the project to other downtown redevelopment anchors, like those at the Beacon Cinema, the Colonial Theatre and Barrington Stage.
The Y informally has lined up about $7 million of the anticipated $11.2 million price tag. The organization is fundraising for the remaining $4 million, and has raised about $600,000 toward that goal.
At worst, Scarafoni said, the nonprofit will take whatever is left over as debt.
'It's time we invest'
Scarafoni said the organization anticipates a 25 percent increase in membership over the five years after construction. There will be no impacts for the people living in the apartments behind the facilities, he said.
The plans include a major renovation of the north side of the building, which houses the organization's day care programs. In one room for infants, duct tape holds a countertop together.
"It's time we invest in our facility," said Jess Rumlow, the YMCA's executive director and CEO, while Scarafoni inspected an area of the gym that has exposed piping.
The work will modernize the facility, opening up the child care center for more funding possibilities and increasing its capacity from 74 to 100 children. Revenue from the child care center feeds the nonprofit's overall portfolio, Scarafoni said, and allows the YMCA to offer $350,000 a year in subsidized services.
That's an important part of the organization's mission, Rumlow said.
"Regardless of your ability to pay, we want you to use our facility," she said.
"That's what we're trying to do, is have a greater impact on this community," Scarafoni said. "If we serve the community, the Y will survive."
"It is doing well as an organization, but [the facility] is old," Scarafoni said. "It is old and tired."
The pool gets a lot of use, but people who need it sometimes forget it's there. New windows above the county's largest pool will let in natural light, and then "people are going to know there's a pool here."
More than 300 kids participate in the YMCA's basketball leagues, but the games get outsourced to other places with larger basketball courts.
The newly renovated building also will have places for pickleball and volleyball, as well as its own indoor walking track.
The organization is doing well now, but with a tightening budget and an aging facility, things won't stay that way. That's why the YMCA leadership decided to act now, Scarafoni said.
"The best time to flex is not when you're weak," he said.
'Kind of dumpy'
Megan Mickle, of Dalton, sends her two sons to programs at the Y. Her 4-year-old son is in the day care program, and her 9-year-old is in the before- and after-school programs.
"I basically live at the Y," Mickle said. "It could definitely use a face-lift, to be honest."
From the layout to the furniture, she said, "everything is just outdated."
"They already have a great program," she said. "I just think the renovations will make it even better."
She said she hopes more people will take advantage of the Y after the overhaul.
"Hopefully, it will attract more teenagers, give them something more to do around here," Mickle said.
Nancy Sacchetti, of Pittsfield, said she uses the gym whenever the weather isn't amenable to outdoor exercise, and "it's kind of dumpy in there right now."
Sacchetti teaches at Herberg Middle School, and she's excited that the YMCA leaders want to make the resulting facilities inclusive.
"I'm excited that somebody's taking the reins and getting the resources to do this," she said. "Because that's what Pittsfield needs you have nice things, it makes you feel better."
And it's important, too, that the young people who need them most have access to facilities that help them live healthier.
"I've been working out for years. I can't say enough about how it improves your life if you're well," she said. "It would be good to have everybody have the chance to experience that."
Amanda Drane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.
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