The leaders of the Westport Weston Family Y's campaign to fund and construct a new home for the Family Y have launched a time-limited effort that aims to raise $1.5 million to expand the Aquatic Center currently planned for the 54,000 sq. ft. facility to be built at the Y’s Mahackeno Outdoor Center starting later this year.
If sufficient funds can be raised by the end of October, the 25-yard lap pool will be enlarged by two lanes, for a total of 10 lanes. The adjacent warm-water family/teaching/therapeutic pool will be widened by seven feet, from 25 feet to 32 feet.
The new Y is expected to open in November, 2014, at an estimated cost of $37.5 million. The $1.5 million expansion of the Aquatic Center would be in addition to that current total and would be accommodated within the previously approved footprint of the building.
“As we strive to close our gap of $3 million to fully fund our new Y as planned – we’re 90 percent there – everybody at the Y realizes that the time is now to build the best Aquatic Center we can,” says Bonnie Strittmatter, President of the Y’s volunteer Board of Directors.
“Adding two lanes to our competitive lap pool would give our Aquatic staff greater programming flexibility for swim lessons, for our Water Rat Swim Team, for all those who swim for fitness and recreation,” Strittmatter adds. “What’s more, having a 10-lane lap pool would allow us to add an aquatic climbing wall, a new play innovation that is proving popular at other Ys.” The lap pool has a maximum depth of nine feet; the climbing wall would extend slightly out over the water in the deep end.
The shallow “family pool,” now 25 yards by 25 feet with a maximum depth of five feet, features two 20-yard swim lanes, a zero-depth “splash area” for pre-swimmers, a bench with whirlpool jets, hoops for water basketball and an inclined ramp and lift for full access, among other features. Enlarging the pool by seven feet would increase water volume by some 70 percent, significantly expanding the amount of space for aqua fitness classes, swim lessons and recreational swimming.
Longtime Y Members recall the expansion of the Y’s Aquatic Center in the 1970s, when the six-lane Stauffer Pool was built to augment the Y’s historic Brophy Pool. “As wonderful as having the new pool was, we realized shortly after it was built that we could have used more water,” says Ellen Johnston, Head Coach of the Water Rat Swim Team and Y staffer for more than 25 years. “As is, our swim team has long needed to schedule additional practice time at other local pools, including Staples High School. The problem is, Staples also faces increasing demand for pool time, so our Y’s use of that pool has been squeezed. Simply put, many groups in our community need more pool space, and it’s been proven over time that ‘if you build it, they will come.’”
Johnston points to the recent two-day tryouts for the Water Rats’ 2012-13 season as evidence of that growing demand. “We were expecting 70 new swimmers, and more than 150 kids showed up,” says Johnston, adding that many of the new swimmers were in the 8 & Under and 9 & 10 age group categories.
“We have about 210 spots on the Water Rat team, and we think we’ll have up to 170 swimmers returning from last season. So achieving our goal of finding an aquatic program at the Y for everyone will be harder than ever this year,” says Johnston. “And given the Water Rats’ growth and accomplishments over the past 60-plus years, I don’t see that changing. Please, ‘Just Add Water’ – and Soon!”
Over the next six weeks, Family Y staff and volunteers will reach out to Y Members and supporters throughout Westport and Weston to secure financial support for the proposed expansion effort. “We’ve said all along that we will build only the Y that we can afford. But we are confident that when shown this need and given the opportunity, our friends and neighbors will step forward and help us at this critical time in our campaign to build something that truly matters – a wonderful new home that will serve as a center of community life and well-being for generations to come.”
To learn more about the JAWS effort and the Family Y’s “Building What Matters” capital campaign for a new Y, visit www.westporty.org or contact Paul Bernetsky, Chief Development Officer, at 203-226-8981, ext. 115, or email@example.com.