The site of the new Westport Weston Family Y was a blur of activity Tuesday as workers and staffers rushed to get ready for a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned at the Mahackeno campus Thursday night -- the culmination of a project six years in the making.
While preparations for the ceremonial event neared completion, it was clear work still needs to be done before the new $38.5 million facility on Allen Raymond Lane will open for use by the Y's 5,500 members. The ribbon cutting will be at 7 p.m.
Because work is not done and final permits have not been issued, an opening date has not been set, according to Scott Smith, the Y's director of communications.
Nevertheless, Smith this week led a private tour to highlight features of the 54,000-square-foot building -- to be formally known as the Bedford Family Center -- on the Y's 32-acre Mahackeno camp property along the Saugatuck River.
The new Y includes a 10-lane, 25-yard lap pool and an adjacent two-lane warm pool for swimming lessons. There's also an area for water basketball and an aquatic climbing pole.
The site includes parking for 265 cars, a contrast to the current location downtown at 59 Post Road East where parking is at a premium.
Smith said the new building is "completely accessible" for the disabled and for parents pushing toddlers in strollers. In contrast, he said, "The old building had 17 different elevations."
"We are thrilled to have this modern facility," he added.
The new Y includes not only the usual workout rooms and a middle-school-size gymnasium with a full-length basketball court. It also has a wellness center and a "mind/body" room for yoga and mediation, Smith said.
"Since we are a coastal community, the Y is very strong in aquatics and swim lessons for children," he said. In fact, there are five locker rooms for men, women, boys, girls and families with small children and those needing dependent care, Smith said.
One major Y aquatic program for children is the Water Rats, which currently has 200 young swimmers enrolled. "Every year we see kids go on to college on athletic scholarships who belonged to swim teams here," he said.
The plan was first approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2008, but several lawsuits tied up the project until the final challenge was dismissed in 2011. Construction on the new Y began in 2013 and it was estimated it would take 18 months to complete, Smith said.
The new facilities initially were expected to open the day after the ribbon cutting, but Y officials announced earlier this month that was not possible because "unforeseen construction delays and the uncertainty of receiving the necessary permits and certifications required for the public use of the facility."
"We have to be out of the old building by November," Smith said.
Smith Tuesday said the Y still needs a certificate of occupancy and has to do "some procedural stuff" for that to be issued.
But an agenda item related to obtaining that document was withdrawn from Wednesday's Board of Selectmen meeting. It involved a review of the FAST System Operating Agreement for waste water disposal and associated documents.
First Selectman Jim Marpe announced that, at the request of the Y, the Water Pollution Control Authority had agreed to postpone that review until a date in September.
"This is in order to provide the Y the additional time is needs to fully complete the required documentation," Marpe said in a press release.
"Throughout the approval and construction process, the Family Y has been thorough and meticulous in meeting all conditions and requirements," Marpe added. "The town and the Y want the final approval steps to meet the same standard."
"We are confident that we can meet and exceed all requirements of the WPCA for operating the new Y's on-site wastewater disposal system. We will need a few more days to assemble all the necessary documentation," Rob Reeves, Y CEO said in the same release.
"We will open our new building at Mahackeno for use by our members as soon as all necessary town and state conditions are met and approvals are received," Reeves added. "We will announce that specific opening date as soon as possible."