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Ground broken, YMCA work starts soon

(ran PW, PS editions of PASCO TIMES)

The YMCA began its next phase of development in Hernando County on Wednesday with the start of a $1.2-million expansion to help it match the demands of a growing county.

More than 200 people attended a festive groundbreaking ceremony replete with gold shovels, plenty of VIPs, and schoolchildren making music with handbells and steel drums. At the end, confetti and sparkling glitter filled the air.

The expansion will double the size of the YMCA's existing fitness center and triple the size of its supervised "Child Watch" area, which will soon feature a two-story play structure.

A new activity center will be built to serve seniors until 4 p.m. each day and teenagers for the rest of the evening.

Two trailers now home to the YMCA's administrative offices will be removed to make room for the expansion, which will include office space for YMCA staff.

Construction is due to begin within a week and be finished sometime next summer. When it concludes, a new effort will begin to raise $1.5-million for the construction of a gymnasium and, perhaps, a children's aquatic center.

Officially known as the Hernando County Family YMCA, the current facility debuted in 1989. Now, it serves more than 5,000 people with youth and adult sports, aquatics programs, day camps and fitness and child care programs.

Executive director Sue Ball said the YMCA is adding about 100 new memberships per month, many of them families. While growth is good, it has prompted some complaints about crowding. Ball said this "second chapter" of development will help ease that problem.

Chuck Chapman, a YMCA member, said he began attending when he was a seasonal resident of Hernando County. When he became a full-time Floridian a few years ago, the YMCA became his second home.

"Some days it is the first," Chapman said. "As I go through my 70s, the Y is a focal point of my daily living."

_ Staff writer Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to rkingsptimes.com.

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