By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
The people have spoken and their desire will become a reality thanks to an agreement between the county and YMCA of The Sandhills to bring a facility to western Harnett County.
Rick Houp, CEO of the YMCA of The Sandhills, located in Fayetteville, got a contract approval from Harnett County commissioners that will partially fund the facility on a monthly basis. The county will kick in $9,500 per month for 10 years to help keep the facility running.
Early on, money from the county will be combined with other sources to fund the $3.5 million project, which includes $1.5 million in renovations to the YMCA’s new home, the old Cagle Furniture Building adjacent to N.C. 24/87 near Spout Springs.
“We will be able to use it as a base of operations to provide programs throughout the county,” Mr. Houp said. “We’ll be able to go into the community and provide the kind of activities parents are asking for.”
Mr. Houp said providing a place to learn how to swim and providing affordable day care options for families are just two of the services he agrees are important and lacking.
He cited the abundance of places to swim as one of the reasons to provide swimming lessons.
“A lot of kids don’t know how to swim and with the Cape Fear River running right through the middle of the county and with all the ponds, that’s a real risk,” he said. “Unfortunately last summer we lost some kids. So, our goal is to go out in the county and teach them to swim.”
As far as day care is concerned, Mr. Houp noted that all YMCAs are membership/scholarship funded. He vowed to make sure no child is barred from the doors because parents can’t afford memberships.
“Our decision is we believe every kid deserves a Y,” he said. “And if you can’t afford to pay, we’re going to do whatever it takes to get you in there.”
When YMCAs come to mind, sports also come to mind. In the case of the new YMCA of Harnett County, there will be some, but not all team sports offered. Mr. Houp said the facility won’t go head-tohead with other sports programs already active in Harnett County.
Instead, organizations will focus on other sports programs.
“So, we’ll more interested in developing youth swim teams, affordable preschool programs for moms,” he said.
Once the remodeling is completed, the 30,000-square-foot building will be transformed from a sales-oriented showplace to a facility with multiple classrooms, a 24-hour staffed fitness center, a swimming pool and some esoteric enhancements to the building.
“We’re going to put in some windows. We’re going to change the facade,” Mr. Houp said. “Then we’ll subdivide and compartmentalize it for all ages. It will have about a 6,000-square-foot fitness center. It will have a community fitness center. Of course it will have the pool. It will have a child care center. It will have a softplay nursery. We’re going to make sure this building will be used by the community whether you’re a member or not.”
Mr. Houp says there will be programs geared toward all ages when the doors open in 2019. That includes seniors.
One program offered by the YMCA, Active Older Adults, is popular in other YMCAs.
“That program is designed for seniors who are looking to no longer have issues with diabetes, fall prevention, cancer survivors,” he said. “We’ll be able have health programs to help them combat those challenges, plus also social opportunities.”
Mr. Houp estimates the facility will be open August of 2019 — it will also include employment opportunities.
“A typical YMCA, both in fulltime and part-time, has about 60 employees,” Mr. Houp said. “So, we’ll be able to provide employment opportunities in Harnett County as well.”