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After a month's hiatus forced by Sandy's fury, Westport Y reopens

Updated 7:07 pm, Saturday, December 1, 2012

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  • Westport Weston Family Y Chief Executive Officer Rob Reeves stands in the upper level of the fitness center of the Y's downtown building on its first day open since Superstorm Sandy seriously damaged the building. Friday, Nov. 30, 2012/Westport, CT Photo: Paul Schott / Westport News
    Westport Weston Family Y Chief Executive Officer Rob Reeves stands in the upper level of the fitness center of the Y's downtown building on its first day open since Superstorm Sandy seriously damaged the building. Friday, Nov. 30, 2012/Westport, CT Photo: Paul Schott

 

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After a month on the sidelines, Westport resident Brian Fontana made his long-awaited return to the hardwood Friday afternoon at the Westport Weston Family Y.

A few jump shots clanked off the rim; he still had to work off some rust. But then he found his rhythm, swishing a succession of mid-range jumpers.

"I haven't touched a ball in a month, so I wanted to get back out and shoot around a bit," Fontana, who joined the Y earlier this year, said during a quick break from his workout. "This is a great release -- this is what I use to stay in shape. It's good to get physical again."

Fontana's return to the Y's upper-level basketball court coincided with the Friday re-opening of the Y's downtown building at 59 Post Road East for the first time since it was ravaged by flood waters during Superstorm Sandy.

Over the last month, Y officials, as well as a legion of repair and clean-up crews, have grappled with perhaps the worst storm to ever strike the organization's headquarters. About 45,000 gallons of water poured into the building during the storm, necessitating the restoration of an extensive underground mechanical network that the Y relies on to operate. The inundation also seriously damaged the Y's lower-level Child Care Center and soaked its lower-level fitness center and gym.

The storm damage to the Y's downtown building will cost between $500,000 and $600,000 to repair, according to Family Y Chief Executive Officer Rob Reeves. Insurance will cover up to $500,000. The Y will pick up any additional costs, using assets to pay for those expenditures.

"When you have water that's salt water, you have to tear things out and dry things out and then repair things," he said. "It's just a different mindset."

The Y on Thursday was issued a temporary certificate of occupancy from town officials, allowing it to resume limited operations on Friday at noon. Within a couple of hours of re-opening, a number of members had jumped on treadmills and elliptical machines in the upper-level of the fitness center, while others had migrated to the Stauffer Pool for lap swimming.

But the Y's building still needs considerable work to return to full operating capacity. The wood floor of the lower-level gym needs to be replaced. Flood damage during Sandy warped the gym's floor so badly that it now has large, undulating segments resembling tidal waves. Once a new floor is put in, Y officials hope to reopen the lower-level gym in January, Reeves said.

Other parts of the Y building, however, are almost ready to go back into service. The Child Care Center, the lower level of the fitness center and the warm-water Brophy Pool are each expected to open by the end of next week, according to Reeves.

Sandy's battering of the Y building will not affect its longstanding plans to relocate to a new building to be constructed at its Mahackeno campus in northwest Westport. Family Y officials are targeting a January groundbreaking for the Mahackeno center. So far, they have raised about $11 million of their $14 million fundraising target for the new complex. The Y has also collected about $350,000 in a separate capital campaign for an aquatics center at the new Mahackeno building.

Until its planned relocation to Mahackeno in late 2014, the Y will continue to serve its approximately 5,500 members at the downtown building.

"The comments from people about how much they missed us really solidified any doubt we might have had about whether people would have missed us if we didn't build a new Y," Reeves said. "We knew we would be missed, but now we really know."

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott