HAMMOND — Crossroads YMCA leaders say they have selected the Hammond Family YMCA for a phased expansion, starting next year, that's estimated to cost more than $10 million.
The newly unveiled project more than doubles the original 1958 building's size to 60,000 square feet, adds two new pools and elevates the location to state-of-the-art status as a regional fitness destination, Jay Buckmaster, president and CEO of Crossroads YMCA, said.
"The Y is far from just another gym," Buckmaster said.
"Our mission is to impact people in our community. We want them to stay healthy, active, and stay really connected. Southlake YMCA (in Crown Point) was really the first key initiative in that process," Buckmaster said. "We believe our goal of having a Y within 10 minutes of everyone is more than about fitness. At the Y, people have access to childcare, kids programming. ... We really provide resources."
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said he is beyond ecstatic Crossroads YMCA has decided to invest its money yet again into the Hammond location on the heels of a $4 million renovation project at that location that wrapped up last year.
The city will chip in $1 million and the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation also will be a significant contributor to this project, McDermott said. The Y organization will raise funds in the community as well, officials said.
"It's outstanding, what's going on with the YMCAs of the Region. A lot of money has already been put into this location, and to see that rewarded by the (White family), it's just an amazing gift," McDermott said.
Buckmaster said phase II of the Hammond YMCA project will include a build-out of an additional 23,000 square feet, for a total of 60,000 square feet.
It will include a new zero depth family and warm water pool, aquatic play structure with features for a fun and safe experience, and separate lap pool that would replace the facility's existing pool.
As part of exploring the need in north Lake County, Buckmaster said the YMCA hired a firm to survey 650 Region residents — some Y members, but not all — who ranged in age and health.
Overwhelmingly, they heard back that they need more affordable, public swimming pools and more accessibility to fitness opportunities.
"The Dean and Barbara White Foundation, they want people to have accessibility, and all the things that make a healthy, connected family. The Y’s work is just one of the areas they feel they can make a big impact. That legacy will continue, from south Lake to Hammond and into the future," Buckmaster said.
An expanded fitness area at the Hammond location will include a new functional training area, new sports performance training/turf area, and new track.
The current gym will be expanded to include a new family gym area. The project also includes two new new studios for expanded youth and adult program offerings, renovated locker rooms for male, female and family/private locker rooms, and additional parking.
Hammond's Y phase I transformation, unveiled last year, gave the facility a more modern, open floor plan with sleek designs, new multipurpose rooms, an expanded weight room, a child care area, teen lounge center and renovated basketball gymnasium. The lobby and main entrance was gutted and remodeled for a more welcoming atmosphere.
"It's a highly successful location. In the first renovation, that Y went from 5,000 to 10,000 members within that 24-month period," Buckmaster said.
For the phase II expansion, the city of Hammond is donating land between the nearby bicycle path and the center for the project, and in exchange, the city is getting a $10-to-$1 return on the city's investments in this phase of the project, McDermott said.
McDermott made headlines this summer when he came out in opposition to North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan's plans to team up with the Y organization on a brand new facility at Wicker Park in Highland.
At the time, he argued it would usurp Y members from Hammond and negatively impact user volumes at other Region YMCAs and fitness centers. Other officials in the town of Highland also disagreed with the direction.
Buckmaster said Crossroads YMCA ultimately decided Wicker Park was not the right place nor was it the right time for a new facility. So, putting Wicker Park aside, they reengaged in discussions with McDermott for a phase II of the Hammond Y facility.
"Wicker Park did not work, but we know the need in north Lake County still existed," he said.
About 250,000 people live within 15 minutes of Hammond, and Buckmaster says the Y wants to tap into the populations that are underserved. Expanding the Hammond facility opens up more opportunity for programming, and they hope to double members there to 20,000.
Buckmaster said the COVID-19 pandemic has required the YMCA to adjust daily operations, with a maximum 25% capacity, smaller class sizes, disinfection of equipment, social distancing and mask enforcement.
He said there has been so much loss this year across the Region due to COVID-19, and he hopes this makes for "a nice Christmas gift to Lake County."
Construction will start in spring or early summer with a late 2022 grand opening.
Construction will be done in phases to minimize disruption to facility members, according to Jill Schaffenberger, spokeswoman for the Crossroads YMCA.
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