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YMCA draws solid support in studies

Published Feb. 27, 2006

Still a few years and a few million dollars away, the effort to bring a YMCA to Oldsmar looks promising, said Linda Williams, head of the steering committee leading the effort.

A market study conducted by Winfield Consulting Group of Atlanta last summer found about 1,400 households with a great interest for a YMCA, said Elizabeth Dubuque, senior vice president and chief operating officer for YMCA of the Suncoast.

Preliminary surveys found that residents want a wellness center with multipurpose space for exercise classes, Dubuque said. Those surveyed also said they want a babysitting area and a teen center.

And they want to swim.

"We have heard loud and clear from the community that they would like an outdoor pool," Dubuque said.

She said the community has asked for a pool that combines recreational features with lap lanes and is heated in the winter.

Now Oldsmar's business community is being surveyed to see if employees would use the facility, Dubuque said. That survey will take a few more weeks.

"Once we have all that information, then we'll feel like we'll know what people want and how many people want it," Dubuque said. "That will help us determine what to build and when to build it."

An initial meeting with interested residents was held in October 2003. In April 2005, City Manager Bruce Haddock issued a letter of intent to lease to the Y 10 acres of city-owned property between the fire station on Pine Avenue and the municipal center. The land is north of Douglas Road, with access from Commerce Boulevard.

Dubuque said the city would lease the land to the YMCA for $1 a year.

In June 2005, the community raised half of the $24,000 needed for a market study.

"I just called several businesses in town and we raised it in one day," said Williams, the head of the steering committee. She is owner of a State Farm insurance agency and a board member of the YMCA of the Suncoast.

If the result of the survey of Oldsmar businesses is favorable and a YMCA is approved, the next step would be to get architects to determine what kind of structure can be built on the land and to then start a capital campaign fund, Williams said.

She added that she hopes a YMCA is operating in three years.

Until a building is designed, it will be difficult to say how much the project will cost, Dubuque said, but she estimated it would be in the neighborhood of $5-million.

The YMCA usually looks to the community to raise most of the money needed to build a branch, she said. Palm Harbor's $4.2-million facility opened in October 2004. That came about after boosters of Palm Harbor University High School's swim team in the late 1990s turned to the YMCA of the Suncoast to bring a pool closer to home.

The Palm Harbor community's donation goal was about $2.5-million.

Williams said community reaction makes her confident Oldsmar residents will raise the money.

The efforts, meanwhile, have impressed Dubuque.

"Oldsmar has been a perfect example of people who are pulling together and trying to accomplish a good thing for the community," she said.