CRYSTAL LAKE – Only now, only after locker rooms have opened and the foundation has been laid, does this $18.2 million project seem like reality.
“It is starting to feel real,” said Robyn Ostrem, tucked into a small, temporary office in the Sage YMCA of Metro Chicago while her new office remains a blueprint. “It was so conceptual when I first got here. Now I understand it.”
Ostrem, Sage’s executive director, started her job Aug. 27 – two days before shovels hit dirt on an ambitious plan to more than double the YMCA’s facility.
The plan adds an eight-lane competition pool, triples workout space, creates brand-new locker rooms, builds preschool classrooms and renovates just about every inch of the building. The additions come with one small casualty: one of the center’s two racquetball courts, which will be turned into restrooms because of usage numbers.
During a recent tour, Ostrem rarely entered a space that wasn’t going to be changed in the coming months – usually significantly. In August, at the groundbreaking, Sage Chairman and CEO Vince Foglia said the facility, when complete, will be the flagship Y in the entire country.
“I think that’s still foremost in everyone’s mind,” Ostrem said. “This is a really neat thing happening here.”
Foglia saved the center from bankruptcy in 2011 with an unspecified financial contribution from the Foglia Family Foundation. Two years later, in April 2013, the Sage YMCA got clearance from the Crystal Lake City Council to turn its 29,000-square-foot facility into 72,000-square-feet and add 133 parking spaces for a total of 317 spaces.
Though a harsh winter slowed progress since the August groundbreaking, the building is still on pace to reach completion in December. In mid-February, the Y unveiled its new men’s locker room, the first finished part of the renovations. The women’s locker room and a downstairs spin room also have been completed.
“We wanted to give people a reason to believe ... that there was a light at the end of the tunnel,” Ostrem said.
If memberships tell the tale, people believe. Ostrem said that while she worried people would be wary of working out around construction, memberships are up since work started.
“I think people are excited for the changes, and they see the value in the work we are doing,” she said.
By the end of May, crews will have extended the fitness center outward from the building and expanded it into space previously used for other YMCA functions.
After a month renovating the original fitness area, the new area is scheduled to open in full by the end of June.
It’s a space triple the original size and now divided into a cardio section and a weights section.
But the plan for a pool might be more substantial. While keeping the current six-lane pool, the Y will get a brand new eight-lane competition pool complete with bleachers.
A whirlpool and sauna, hospitality room and an open corridor for people to convene and eat from a planned eatery also are in the works.
So far, Sage has raised all but $1.7 million of the project’s price tag.
YMCA staff members are working on closing the gap, Ostrem said.
“We are working diligently with donors that believe in our mission,” she said. “It’s more than four walls here. It’s the important work we do here for youth and families.”