Hagerstown YMCA plans move

February 04, 1998


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - The Hagerstown YMCA plans to move most or all of its athletic and community-service programs from its downtown building to a facility planned for Eastern Boulevard, officials said Wednesday.

YMCA officials said the move could be accomplished within two years, but would be made only if the Y finds a new use for the North Potomac Street building.

"We will not walk away from that facility until we have a game plan in place, in writing, that's good for everybody," said William J. Reuter, chairman of a YMCA committee working to secure funding for the $6.5 million project.


Reuter and other YMCA officials asked the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to secure $1.5 million in state funds for the project. They said they would like $500,000 in state money to be made available this year.

The 129-year-old YMCA has been at its current location for 76 years. In recent years, the location has become a liability, with safety concerns keeping people away, especially at night, officials said.

In addition, the building's 62 boarding rooms for men is a conflict for an organization that caters to children and families, they said. The rooms take up more than half of the building's 75,000 square feet, leaving 30,000 square feet of space for programs.

"It is not really a family resource center," said YMCA board President James G. Pierne.

Membership, which hit a high of 6,000 in the mid-1980s, is now at about 3,000. YMCA officials said normal membership for a community like Hagerstown is about 8,000.

"Over a period of time, the Y will literally be out of business," Reuter said.

As a site for its new home, the YMCA has selected, but has not yet purchased, property on Eastern Boulevard across from the Douglas A. Fiery Funeral Home.

The 20 acres there would provide room for a 55,000-square-foot building, which could be expanded to 150,000 square feet, with land left over for athletic fields, officials said.

"I don't think there's a second site that's even close to it," Reuter said.

Plans are for the new building to have gymnasiums, swimming pools, a child-care center, administrative office and other facilities.

Pierne said there is a chance some YMCA programs, such as child care, could stay at the existing site, but most of the operation would move.

YMCA officials said their plan has drawn opposition from some Hagerstown City Council members, who would prefer the Y stay downtown or move to the former fairgrounds property.

But Y officials said the Eastern Boulevard site is ideal because of its access and its proximity to the area's population growth. They said it also would be more inviting to teenagers and families.

"Staying downtown, we will die a slow, miserable death," Reuter said.

He said the YMCA has met with a private developer about possible uses for the current building, including some type of housing or health care uses.

"I don't believe this is an issue of abandoning downtown," Reuter said.

The YMCA is seeking $500,000 from the city and $500,000 from the county for the project. Plans are for the bulk of the funding, as much as $4 million, to come from private donors.

Lawmakers said securing state funding could be difficult this year because the Hagerstown Y is not on the state YMCA's priority list for construction and renovation projects.

Local YMCA officials said they are confident they will be placed on the priority list next year. They said they are making a pitch for state money this year because their private fund-raising efforts have gone well. They said they have raised about $1.6 million in the past month. One unnamed donor pledged $1 million.

"Things are moving fairly quickly," Reuter said.

If the Y doesn't get the $500,000 in state money this year, Reuter said officials will return to Annapolis next year and ask for the full $1.5 million.

Delegation members at the meeting with YMCA officials said they supported the plan and understood the need for a new building. They didn't know what state money might be available this year, but said they would try to set up a meeting with Y officials and Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"If there's going to be a year to try to find money, this is going to be one of the better years to do it," said Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

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