Funding on the way for YMCA rec center

For the past 11 years, YMCA officials on Kaua‘i and their supporters have talked enthusiastically and optimistically about building a recreational facility on the island.

The day of talking is over, and the project may see the light of day by next summer, proponents of the project say.

The Office of Environmental Quality Control is reviewing an environmental study on the YMCA’s proposal to construct a recreational facility on nearly 4 acres by Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi.

If the state agency issues a finding of no significant impact, and the Kaua‘i County Planning Commission issues permits, the groundbreaking for the center could take place as early as next summer, said Tom Tannery, general director of the YMCA Kaua‘i branch.

The new facilities will enable the YMCA to continue and expand various community services offered on Kaua‘i for nearly 75 years, officials with the Office of Environmental Quality Control said.

The YMCA currently operates Camp Naue in Ha‘ena, a teen center at Kaua‘i High School and a teen center by Waimea High School. YMCA also offers swimming lessons.

Tannery said some programs that will be operated at the center will support the government’s war on drug use among Kaua‘i youths.

The project will be developed on land the county has leased to the YMCA, Tannery said. The county’s designation of the land for commercial and urban use allows the development of the project, Tannery said.

YMCA officials will be asking the county planning commission to approve variance and use permits for the project.

The project is to be developed in three phases. The first phase proposes construction of a swimming pool that could be used for competition, a multi-purpose building and a wellness center, Tannery said.

The second phase calls for construction of a day care center, softball or baseball batting cages, an administration building and a locker room. The third phase proposes a gymnasium.

The entire project would be developed at an estimated cost of about $8 million, with half of that for the gymnasium, Tannery said. The YMCA has raised $600,000 thus far for the entire project with the help of the community and businesses, he said.

Kaua‘i architect Ron Agor is now volunteering his services, but will later be paid when he serves as official architect, Tannery said.

The project will bring many benefits to island residents, particularly those who live nearby in Lihu‘e, Tannery said.

People who run nonprofit organizations sometimes overstretch themselves because they don’t have a constant source of funding for their services, hence services are cut back, Tannery said.

The YMCA project will be different because membership fees will be charged for use of athletic equipment and facilities at the new center, Tannery said. The fees can then be used to sustain other services the YMCA can offer from the new project site. Tannery said.

“It is not just a workout facility, (It is) a place where people can do cultural activities, story telling, chanting, child care, education programs for children, cross-generational programs,” Tannery said.

The facility’s close proximity to Chiefess Kamakahelei school allows YMCA representatives to work with students through anti-drug use programs, Tannery said.

“This is the age group you want to target, before they get introduced to drugs and other things that can bring down their lives. It (the project) can be one of the most positive things when you talk about the drug thing,” Tannery said.

Tannery said he foresees implementation of programs that will help encourage youths to become “good citizens, proper citizens, caring, honest and respectful.”

Tannery praised the YMCA board for its perseverance in seeing the project become a reality.

Pat Childs, a Kaua‘i attorney and current president of the board, and Tannery have been working on the project for the past 11 years.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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