HARRODSBURG — Wilderness Trace Family YMCA plans to renovate its facility at 130 N. College St. in a potential expansion that will amount to $1.1 million in improvements.
“That represents Phase 1A of an expansion that will hopefully include two additional expansions down the road for a total of $5 million in renovations that will change the look of much of the block,” said Mark Fryer, chief executive officer of the YMCA, which serves not only Mercer County, but Boyle, Garrard and Washington counties.
The project was the brainchild of Fryer and is now being spearheaded by the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Community Advancement Partnership and its chairman Pete Chiericozzi, the retired senior vice president of Wausau Paper. And while the massive renovation is contingent on a $500,000 federal Community Development Block Grant, the funding of which won’t be known until February, there exists a great sense of optimism for Fryer and the membership of CAP, which includes more than 30 entities throughout Mercer County.
“It’s not as if there isn’t grant money out there anymore,” Fryer said in his office Friday. “But the process has definitely become more competitive.” But part of why Fryer and CAP feel good about their chances of receiving the half million in federal dollars centers around the overall impact the project will have on the community.
“This isn't just about ‘The Y,’” said Fryer. “What makes this project so special is how it will create ‘a model block’ and help create a more pleasing environment right in the heart of town.” And it’s precisely the potential impact that Fryer believes has resonated with the project’s supporters.
Those who have gone on record in support of the proposed renovation include U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, 6th District U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, state Sen. Jimmy Higdon and state Rep. Kim King.
“We’ve also had Mayor (Eddie) Long and his commissioners along with Judge (Executive) Milward Dedman and his magistrates telling us they'll do everything they can to help make this plan a reality,” Fryer said.
Lois Mateus and her husband, Tim Peters, were among the first to realize Fryer’s vision for the expansion in December when they stopped by his office to discuss a separate issue regarding the public heath center.
“Tim and I were about to leave Mark’s office when he brought up this idea with no intent to raise money at that point,” said Mateus. “But the idea impressed us so much that before we knew it, Tim and I wrote out a check for $10,000 right then and there.”
Mateus said the stretch of College Street is a gateway to the city and one of the first parts of town newcomers see when visiting on vacation or considering moving their companies to the Bluegrass.
“Attracting new industry while keeping existing industry is a high priority,” Mateus said. “This renovation will also serve as an impetus for others along this important stretch of highway, and surrounding community, to make improvements.”
After Mateus and Peters gave $10,000 to the effort in December, their donation was immediately followed by Anna Armstrong, Trim Masters, Corning and the city of Harrodsburg for a current total of $100,000. With the $500,000 from the CDBG, the balance of another half million in funds would come from corporate donations from industry and private citizens.
“We’re confident that money will come since we’re talking about a quality of life issue for the entire community,” said Peters, who has donated much of his time on preliminary site planning, budgeting and working with 5253 Design Group of Louisville for the proposed plan.
“5253 is certain to do a wonderful job,” said Peters, who points to one of its other projects right down the road. “They were the architects for Mercer’s new library, which seems to have made an excellent impression.” Peters added it was Chiericozzi and CAP that asked for his input with the YMCA’s strategic site planning.
“I can’t say enough about CAP and Pete for their vision and desire to take Mercer County to the next level in terms of creating an even better community,” he said.
“Hopefully this phase will become a reality and pave the way for other phases, which will usher in a new YMCA and a new Harrodsburg,” said Fryer.
Improvements to “The Y” are something he has dreamed of since becoming the organization’s CEO two and one half years ago. Those renovations will include a wellness center, enclosed child watch area, men’s and women’s locker rooms for 20-30 people each, an entry point that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a new parking lot complete with trees and grass islands, spinner machines, more storage and new HVAC equipment.
“Exercise is something we’d like to see accessible to people of all income ranges,” he said, pointing to statistics from the government of Kentucky (www.countyhealthrankings.org).
“Exercise is quite literally a matter of life and death when you consider that 67 percent of adults in the state are considered either overweight or obese,” said Fryer.
“These numbers also state that 35 percent of Mercer County adults are considered ‘physically inactive,’ which means they conduct no exercise routines. Sure, this renovation will add to the beauty of our community, but I know it will also make us a healthier community.”
When asked what the next two phases might include, Fryer smiled and added: “We can'’t get into great details as of this moment, but it’s some incredibly exciting stuff,” he said. “What can I say, it’s just a really interesting time to be a resident of Mercer County. And don’t forget, the Wilderness Trace Family YMCA also belongs to the residents of Boyle, Garrard and Washington counties.”