Lakeland YMCA expansion wins commission approval; includes hardening for security

The Lakeland Family YMCA moves one step closer to expanding its campus by building a 41,000-square-foot field house and 4,000-square-foot childcare extension.

The Lakeland Family YMCA moves one step closer to expanding its campus by building a 41,000-square-foot field house and 4,000-square-foot childcare extension.

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.”

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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

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