YMCA move to Mahackeno nearing fruition

YMCA move to Mahackeno nearing fruition

Lily Howes

Kacey Hertan, Business Manager

How many times have you heard the slogan ‘Make Mahackeno happen?’ For years, all Westport residents saw were red and white signs with black writing pleading for a new Westport/Weston YMCA.

Well, now it’s time for Mahackeno to happen.

The YMCA ends its lease on the current building it inhabits at 59 Post Road East on November 2014. That means the new YMCA building at Mahackeno will have to be completed before then.

“Our move-in date is a moving target,” Communications Director Scott Smith said. However, Smith anticipates that the new building will be ready for use by September of 2014.

Although the YMCA staff is extremely excited to see their dream of a new facility so close to materializing, there continues to be opposition about the environmental issues of the Y’s new development. “I can honestly say I hope it [the new Y] burns to the ground. You can’t just rebuild an ecosystem,” a woman waiting to pick up a child in the lobby of the current YMCA who introduced herself as ‘a concerned citizen,’ said.

The new Y will take up six of the 32 acres of the Mahackeno property, which was previously undeveloped land that many people see as a necessary preservation site for Westport’s natural beauty.

On the other hand, the Y has promised to replace all cut down trees. “We’re building what matters in the best way possible,” Smith said. He also highlighted the fact that the new outdoor space will open up possibilities for more outdoor sports year-round such as Frisbee and cross-country skiing.

While the new Y will have many benefits, the new facility will not be able to accommodate as much as originally expected. The plans for the child care and gymnastics centers had to be cut, and the gymnastics team is now moving its facility to Norwalk, which is out of the way for Westport and Weston residents alike. “I think it is pretty inconvenient that the YMCA couldn’t find room in their budget the gymnastics program because it’s been a program for about 15 years already,” Staples and YMCA team gymnast Chandler O’Reardon ’17 said.

For many Westport residents, the new location is inconvenient. The YMCA will no longer be in the center of town; instead, it will be closer to the Weston border, which will be more convenient for Weston residents.

Although the new location may not be optimal for Staples students, the modern facility will be. The decaying locker rooms and broken heat from the building that dates back to 1923 will no longer be a problem. The new Y will also increase job and volunteer opportunities for Staples students and eliminate the problem of finding a parking spot downtown. “The possibility of more people getting to do what I do is great, and I believe it will give a positive effect,” Lexy Iannacone ’15, who works at the YMCA, said.

“It’s almost not fair to expect our Y to continue to meet the ever-evolving need of our community in the same place,” said Smith, who sees the move as a necessity.

The Water Wrats Swim Team is one of the YMCA teams with the most Staples participants and is one of the teams that will benefit the most from the new facility. The team’s pool will be upgraded from a six-lane pool built in the mid 70s at the current location to a brand new 10-lane pool with an adjacent aqua fitness and play pool containing the first aquatic climbing wall in the state at Mahackeno.

“Hopefully it means we have a little more room to spread out our wings,” Head Water Wrats Swim Team coach Ellen Johnston said. She added that the upgrade is long overdue.

As a Y employee at the current facility for over 27 years, the move is bittersweet for Johnston. “It’s like leaving a home you grew up in,” she said.

“We’ll miss, but take with us, 90 years of memories,” Smith added.

“I think for the town as a whole the absence of the YMCA will seem strange at first because we are all used to it being in the downtown area, but I am looking forward to the new Y,” Water Wrat Swimmer and Staples student Kenzie Healy ’17 said.