Makackeno’s machinations: Westport Y embarks on $25m expansion
WESTPORT — Five years after the Westport Weston Family YMCA spent $38.5 million on the construction of a new facility at Camp Mahackeno, the organization will again embark on a large project: a $25 million expansion to the current building and renovation of Makackeno’s summer camp facilities.
“We listen to our members,” said Pat Riemersma, CEO of the Westport Weston Family YMCA, adding that after three years since the original build out they have learned where to best expand going forward.
Over a year ago, the YMCA leadership began a master planning process and posed the question: “How can we better serve our members,” Riemersma said.
As part of the process, the leadership asked the question of what the old downtown YMCA had that the new location does not.
The absence of gymnastics at the new facility was a resounding answer to that question. When the YMCA moved to Mahackeno from downtown, the organization did not build a gymnastics center to replace the one downtown and has instead rented a space in Norwalk to house the YMCA’s Showtime Exhibition gymnastics team.
“We’re bringing gymnastics back home,” Riemersma said, adding the new gymnastics facility will be built alongside the current building. The 22,000 square foot addition will have two floors, both 11,000 square feet, with the gymnastics center on the upper floor, Riemersma said, noting the gymnastics space won’t hold competitions and will instead be used solely for practice.
The bottom floor of the new building will have dance and spinning studios and a workout “zone” for CrossFit-type equipment, Riemersma said, adding the YMCA’s current spin studio has 24 bikes and the new studio will have 34 bikes to accommodate the frequent waitlist for spin classes. The new group exercise studios will allow for more exercise classes in the post-work hours as well, Riemersma said.
The addition will allow for an expanded preschool program with more music and arts programming Riemersma said, noting the renovations will bring 70 additional parking spaces to the facility.
A large-scale renovation of the summer camp behind the YMCA building is also part of the $25 million project, Riemersma said, noting the camp hasn’t been renovated since the camp’s construction at least 40 years ago.
“Someone used the word vintage the other day, which is probably appropriate. It needs a little bit of love,” Riemersma said of the summer camp, adding, “If we want to stay competitive and better meet the needs of the kids in our community, we feel it’s important that we enhance the camp property and add a few more attractive elements programmatically.”
Two giant slides, two pavilions, a new pool, locker rooms, a larger archer range, and a splash pad will be built at the camp. The amphitheater will be renovated and Beck’s Lodge will be winterized to allow for middle-school programming in the colder months, Riemersma said.
Construction on the building addition will start in September 2019 and be completed a year later in 2020 while the camp renovations will also start in Sept. 2019 but are projected to end by the start of the 2020 camp season, Riemersma said, adding the project will be funded through a capital campaign initiative, the YMCA’s endowment, and financing.
The project’s plans have already gone to the Conservation Department for review and are expected to come before the Planning and Zoning Commission in September or October, Riemersma said.
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