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Thursday June 18th, 2015

Posted at 12:48pm

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Shaun Elliott, CEO of YMCA of Western Ontario, speaks to media, the public and current employees of the Windsor YMCA about the plans to build a 40,000 square foot addition to the current Central Park Athletics building and relocate the current downtown Windsor YMCA.

After being located on Victoria Street in downtown Windsor for more than 40 years, the YMCA will be relocating to Central Park Athletics on Grand Marais and Central, building a 40,000 square foot addition to the current building.

The partnership sees a multi-million dollar investment into the YMCA. According to YMCA of Western Ontario’s CEO Shaun Elliott, the current facility only serves approximately 900 people and is losing money annually.

“The downtown location is pretty tired and we have no parking spots so it made it really impossible,” said Elliott. “We want to serve thousands of kids and families and that location just wasn’t viable.”

The goal is to serve as many as 5,000 to 7,000 people annually. After using a market research company to look into and test new locations, the collaboration with Central Park Athletics seemed like the perfect fit. Elliott said the project is almost like building and opening a brand new YMCA, which residents Windsor and Essex county really haven’t experienced in recent decades.

They will continue to follow the YMCA’s model, reaching out to assist families live active lifestyles who may otherwise not be able to afford it. Elliott said currently one in every three members are assisted financially, however once they go through the confidential process in obtaining that assistance, they blend into the fabric that is the YMCA.

“The Windsor market tends to be focused on all the cards, you can do that, you can come in for swimming lessons or you can go to a class but what we do is bundle it up and make it all inclusive so it’s really affordable for families,” said Elliott. “The value is incredible and so wherever we put in a family model the response has been overwhelming.”

Additionally, while they currently have approximately 100 employees at the downtown Windsor location, Elliott said they will be looking to hire nearly 100 new employees. Between 20 and 30 of those new hires will be full-time positions, while the remaining will be part-time. He stressed no one will be losing their jobs during the relocation process, it is one huge expansion which has current employees like Brian Service, coordinator of facility services, very excited.

“This is a great day for myself, my family, for Windsor I believe,” said Service. “I’ve been involved with the Y pretty much all my life and I grew up learning to swim at the Y, swam in the very first pool and now this will be our third pool. I became a lifeguard, I supervised the pool for many years and now in my present role I’m taking care of the building downtown so I’m really excited about what this will bring to Windsor.”

The project will move at record speed according to Elliott, with an opening date geared to be in the early months of 2016. Collectively, Elliott said the YMCA is putting $10 million into Central Park in infrastructure enhancements. They will be holding fundraising events over the next year to offset the costs of the renovations, which Elliott said is not an inexpensive endeavor.

“This is not the ideal way to launch the fundraising campaign,” said Elliott. “Typically you have half the money in the bank account before you launch, we just didn’t have that luxury because we wanted to get he building built so we‘ll be asking individuals to consider making a significant gift to the Y. We’re prepared to move forward and try to do that simultaneously.”

In the meantime, the downtown operations will remain open, which also includes a newcomer service operation to assist English as a second language and settlement services. The biggest point Elliott wanted to stress was inviting families to come down and participate at the YMCA, taking advantage of all the great things the facility has to offer the Windsor and Essex county community.

“We can make a huge difference in the activity levels of kids and families,” said Elliott. “This is like a brand new day so we’re totally excited about being here.”

The building model for the new YMCA.

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