Work is now underway on the new Wellmark YMCA that will eventually replace the Riverfront Y in downtown Des Moines. City, county and state leaders held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday afternoon inside the old Polk County Convention Center, which will be the site of the new Wellmark YMCA.
For fourteen years, Betty Billings has taught at the Riverfront YMCA. She says, "I like it for the water because I've been told to do water exercise. Plus, I like the people, I like the friendly atmosphere here, and I like the group we have."
She's looking forward to a modern facility, but she says she’ll miss the history of this more than fifty year old riverfront building. She says, "A little sad because we've been here so long, and we have all these murals at this pool down there."
About 5,000 people from all walks of life use the Riverfront Y. Leaders say 15,000 members will take advantage of the new 180-thousand square foot facility when it moves to the old Polk County Convention Center.
YMCA of Greater Des Moines President and CEO Vernon Delpesce says, "We know this is a large facility. We have a great population here. We're connected to the Skywalk. It's going to be a very well used facility."
The signature features of the new Wellmark YMCA will be the indoor 50 meter pool and a triathlon training center. Delpesce says, "Those will be very unique for a facility like this."
The new YMCA in downtown is about 10 years in the making. And, now that crews have started construction, it could be ready by early next year. Delpesce says, "It will all be ready 1st quarter of 2015. If we're really lucky, it will be ready by January 1, 2015,the renovations of the Plex will be complete."
Leaders are still working out some details, like landscaping on the outside. As for the Riverfront YMCA, it's on the market, and leaders hope to find a buyer before the big move. Downtown Community Alliance Director of Economic Development Tim Leach says, "Any kind of mixed use development that would maybe put some retail, some office, maybe some residential. The sky is the limit. It's a great development site. So, I think we want something as iconic as the old y was that will last the test of time."
People will keep working out at the Riverfront Y this year, counting down the days to the ribbon cutting of the new Wellmak YMCA.
Billings says, "Oh, I think that will be great, and the pool will be great. Hopefully the same group of people will go."
The entire project costs $30 million and is paid for with private funding, new market tax credits and bond financing.