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Work continues on YMCA relocation

Robert Lordson photo Work continues on a joint venture between Bay College and the Northern Lights YMCA that will move the YMCA from its current facility to the former M-TEC building on the Bay College campus in Escanaba.

ESCANABA — Progress on the relocation of the Northern Lights YMCA to the former M-TEC facility on the Bay College campus is proceeding rapidly according to YMCA Executive Director Gary Nash.

“They (Contractor Gundlach Champion) have exceeded our expectations in terms of their progress on the demolition aspect of the project,” said Nash.

The project to relocate the YMCA was made possible through a contribution from the Hannahville Indian Community to the college in 2018. The college and the YMCA entered into a new 50 agreement to lease the former M-TEC building to the YMCA on Feb. 15 of this year.

“This project really encompasses two phases” said Nash. “The first phase happening now is the relocation of all of our dry-land programs and facilities. The second phase will include the building of new aquatic facilities.”

The new YMCA is slated to have a quiet opening in late August and a grand opening sometime in early September.

The YMCA had been planning on a new addition to the existing YMCA facility for years and was just about to launch a campaign when COVID-19 hit Delta County in March of 2020. During the time of the governor’s initial stay at home order the YMCA was forced to close and cease its campaign activities. The pause allowed the YMCA time to consider all its options to keep the momentum for the expansion going forward, and if possible, reduce the costs to make fundraising goals easier.

“That’s when we began thinking outside of the box and saw the opportunity represented in the M-TEC building that Bay College was in the process of decommissioning” said Nash.

That time started the ball rolling on discussions with Bay College about the re-purposing of the M-TEC facility as the new location for the YMCA. Those talks culminated in the agreement signed in February.

The relocation of the YMCA to the former M-TEC space is expected to save about $1.5 million when compared with the prior plan to expand the facilities at the current YMCA location.

“We can put a gymnasium inside the existing space much cheaper than building a new gym, which was part of the original expansion plan,” said Nash.

Other highlights of the move include an indoor walking track and a large space for youth activities that are absent in the existing YMCA location.

“We feel the M-TEC space provided for a lot of our checklist items in our expansion wish list,” said Nash.

After the current phase of the project is finished in August, the YMCA won’t be finished making improvements to the M-TEC facility.

“We plan on bringing our aquatic activities over as soon as the fundraising for phase 2 is finished,” said Caron Salo, the YMCA’s fund development director and director of the YMCA’s Wells Center for Youth Development.

Salo said the fundraising for phase 2 has already begun and will continue in a quiet manner until approximately 80% of the funds are pledged.

“Then we’ll ask the community at large to get us down the home stretch,” she said.

The final phase of the project is projected to cost approximately $3 million and could be completed as early as 2024, providing funding goals are met.

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