LAKELAND — The Lakeland Family YMCA has cleared its first legal hurdle to adding a nearly 41,000-square-foot fieldhouse expansion.
Lakeland commissioners voted unanimously to approve a major modification in the YMCA’s Planned Unit Development to allow for construction of a fieldhouse building, renovations and expansion of its existing child care facilities. The estimated $21 million project will improve overall safety and increase capacity of the YMCA’s programs.
“Our child care building in the back is not safe,” said Elaine Thompson, CEO of YMCA West Central Florida. “As in elementary schools right now, we are not safe for active shooters.”
Thompson said the child care building will be renovated to include all the protections parents might expect to see at local schools, like Carlton Palmore Elementary School on the other side of Cleveland Heights Boulevard. It will be expanded by approximately 4,000 square feet, to increase the capacity of the Y’s child care program from 242 children to about 400, with the final limit to be determined by Florida’s Department of Children and Families.
With its existing facilities, the YMCA’s youth sports programs have been “maxed out,” Thompson said. The youth sports programs have more than 400 children enrolled every session with no room for additional basketball or indoor soccer, she said. Thompson hopes to be able to double that to about 800 children during summer camps once the child care expansion and new fieldhouse are completed.
“We’d be really able to do so much more for the children for the summer camp programs,” Thompson said.
Commissioner Bill Read raised issues of traffic safety with an increased volume of cars potentially backing up at Cleveland Heights and Westover Street.
Thompson said the expansion will eliminate the YMCA’s entrance directly onto Cleveland Heights Boulevard and move the Westover Street entrance about 75 feet east, away from Cleveland Heights. The city has agreed to provide funds to extend of the southbound left turn lane at Cleveland Heights Boulevard and Westover Street by approximately 40 feet.
There are still several steps the YMCA must take before it can break ground, including getting approval of its detailed site plans from city staff.
“This will be a phased construction, as we have to continue operations of the YMCA,” attorney Bart Allen, representing the YMCA, told commissioners.
Allen said the YMCA hopes to begin the first phase of construction in September by paving a new 150-space parking lot extending to the east. It has an estimated cost of $2.1 million.
Construction of the nearly 41,000-square-foot fieldhouse adjacent to Cleveland Heights Boulevard will be built on part of the YMCA’s current parking lot. It’s tentatively slated to begin in March 2024 with an estimated cost of $13.3 million.
Interior renovation to the fieldhouse and existing wellness building will happen in July 2024. Interior renovations and expansion of the child care center will operate independently on its own timeline, according to Allen.
Thompson said the YMCA’s capital campaign has raised about $20,142,000 of the $21 million goal at this time, so the organization is hopeful to be able to fully fund all parts of the project.
Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFl.
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Lakeland YMCA expansion OK’d by commission; includes security upgrades