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Over A Year After the Storm, YMCA Renovations Are Complete

The YMCA is hosting an open house Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to celebrate the completion of an extensive remodeling project sparked by massive flooding.

It’s been a challenging past year for the to say the least, but the facility is back and even better than ever after severe flooding at the facility last July.

It’s been a rigorous process of fundraising and construction, but now leaders at the YMCA have peace of mind knowing the renovations are complete. To celebrate this achievement, there will be an open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the YMCA, and all are invited.

“It’s a testament to the value of the community places on having a YMCA here,” said Center Executive Director Geoff Mertens. “They see the importance of having a place to exercise, but also a place for the community to gather socially.”

In all, the renovations at the YMCA cost roughly $2.1 million. Of that, insurance and the YMCA were able to pay $1.7 million, but Mertens said he needed to turn to the community to raise the remaining $475,000.

In just six months, the community pooled $480,000 to fund renovations. The fundraising was kick started by a $200,000 donation from John and Linda Mellowes, and several local businesses ensured the YMCA reached its goal.

On July 22, 2010, 100-year storm brought with it a devastating amount of rainfall and floodwaters violently crashed into the YMCA. The force of water rushing down a hill into the gymnasium smashed open and bent the steel doors that were holding back the floodwaters from outside.

The water quickly filled the gym, and patrons were asked to evacuate. However, a tornado warning was issued at that same time — and YMCA was in emergency management mode.

Mertens said it was like a scene from “Titanic” that day as a maintenance worker held the glass doors leading into the gym closed as the water level rose foot by foot. Fortunately, no one was hurt during the flooding, but the entire lower level of the YMCA was filled with four feet of water once the storm calmed.

It was a devastating blow to the YMCA. More than 70 percent of their programming and facilities are in the lower level, which was now under water, and the new home of a carp. The carp was eventually found in the pool during clean up efforts.

“By 9 a.m. the next day, we put our heads together to try and figure out how to get our programs back up and running as soon as possible for the community,” Mertens said.

Fortunately the YMCA was able to use the building and the to continue programming while the YMCA dried out.

The wood on the gym floor was warped, and looked more like a skate park than anything else. Walls needed to be torn down, carpeting ripped up, electrical systems wired. However, in the face of destruction, YMCA staff knew this was also a chance to make the YMCA better than it was before the floods.

“We all saw this as an opportunity to rededicate some space here, and better fit the needs of the community,” Mertens said.

The YMCA now houses a bi-level fitness center with twice the amount of equipment as before. It also added a family gym, cycling and exercise studios, personal training rooms and a two-lane track.

The event on Saturday will be an opportunity to view the improvements at full completion.  The event will also offer attendees a chance to register for door prizes, take part in kids activities and enjoy refreshments.

Additionally,  the Tri-County YMCA is offering a special membership opportunity – sign up for a membership at the Tri-County YMCA during the month of September and receive the month of September free along with $75 off a membership package.

For more information, please contact the Tri-County YMCA at (262) 255-9622.

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