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Lockport YMCA at 95% of fundraising goal for new building

LOCKPORT – The Lockport Family YMCA has reached 95 percent of its $10 million fundraising goal for its long-planned new building on Snyder Drive.

Buddy Campbell, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara YMCA, made the disclosure last week as he and other YMCA officials met with Supervisor Mark C. Crocker and Economic Development Director Marc R. Smith at the site of the new building.

Matthew J. Shriver, the Buffalo Niagara YMCA’s vice president for finance, said the target date for opening the new building is Oct. 1, 2018. The two YMCAs have a management agreement, and a merger is expected if the new building is completed.

The project will be smaller than the 70,000-square-foot building envisioned in 2006. Crocker said it looks as if it will cover about 55,000 square feet. Campbell said a market analysis will determine exactly what facilities will be offered at the new building, which will be erected behind the vacant former Walmart store.

“Over time, the needs of the community change,” Shriver said. Crocker said a swimming pool will be included, although the original plan called for two pools.

The town has an old contract with the Lockport YMCA to obtain priority use of the new building for the town’s recreation programs in exchange for paying to pave the YMCA’s parking lot and obtaining 12 acres of the site as a town nature walkway. But since the deal was signed, the town has opened three other parks.

Crocker said that years ago, the town set aside $300,000 for paving but that the deal will be re-examined. The YMCA now “is reluctant to release the land,” Crocker said. “They want to get this project started with a smaller design and expand in the future.”

The Lockport YMCA announced its fund drive in 2006 because its 1926 building on East Avenue in the city was no longer adequate. At the time, Lockport YMCA Executive Director Mark W. Albiez said the YMCA had decided as far back as 1993 that it needed a new facility, located where the area’s population growth is, which is in the town. It bought the 31-acre Snyder Drive site in 2001 for $225,000.

At first, the YMCA was planning to keep the East Avenue site open, but that is no longer being considered.

For many years, fundraising made little headway, as influential people in the city, including former Mayer Michael W. Tucker and real estate developer David L. Ulrich, publicly opposed the YMCA’s move to the town. Also, financing became questionable as the Lockport YMCA lost most of its endowment in the stock market plunge in the fall of 2008. It earned the money back when the market rebounded in subsequent years.

Things started to move in May 2014, when the Lockport YMCA announced the planned merger with the Buffalo Niagara YMCA. But the deal was contingent on completing the fundraising for the new building and selling the East Avenue site.

Albiez said the two YMCAs are prepared to invest a total of $4.5 million in the new project, on top of the $10 million to be raised. The Grigg Lewis Foundation of Lockport has agreed to double its contribution to the project from $1.5 million to $3 million, Albiez said.