YMCA of Southern West Virginia planning committee members have opted not to build a proposed $30 million facility that had been planned at the Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex in Beckley, but members of the Y will see hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements to the current building, Y CEO Jay Rist announced Friday.

The upgrades will be unveiled to the public later this summer, possibly in July, Rist added.

Over the past couple of years, donors had given around $600,000 to $700,000 in a capital campaign for a proposed YMCA facility at the Paul Cline Memorial Youth Complex. The late billionaire Chris Cline had donated $10 million to the project, and Rist had secured more in federal Abandoned Mine Land (AML) funding.

Market changes that included the addition of new health clubs in the area in 2018 and 2019, along with the July 4 death of the project's main donor, Chris Cline, resulted in the YMCA planning committee opting to nix construction of the new facility and to focus on making upgrades to the current building, which serves downtown Beckley and is situated near the West Virginia University Institute of Technology Beckley campus.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the nonprofit YMCA being closed by Gov. Jim Justice's executive order in mid-March. Justice recently gave the green light for health clubs to reopen, with various restrictions, on May 18 — a date that is not feasible for the Y, in light of renovations and preparations that are being made to protect the health of members.

Rist said Y staff has ordered acrylic separator panels to protect members who check in at the front desk. Gloves and masks were on back-order on Friday, he added.

"We're currently in the middle of a complete remodel on the top floor," Rist said Friday. "We're remodeling, but we're also waiting to get the necessary supplies, for safety reasons.

"We have to have those processes set up," he said. "We need the next six weeks to finish the remodel and give ourselves time to get the safety procedures in place."

Meanwhile, around $300,000 in renovations is being made. Improvements include an expanded Wellness Center with new cardio equipment and an open floor plan, two new unisex bathrooms, new flooring, new lighting and replacement of ceiling tile.

A new child watch services station is also in the works, added Rist.

Rist said Y staff members are eager for members and guests to return to a sparkling facility that offers increased health protections, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rist said Friday that donors who had contributed to the $30 million construction project have been supportive of the Y board's decision to renovate the existing facility. Most have asked that their contributions be used for improving the East Main Street facility for members and guests.

"We're very thankful that our donors decided to support this, as well," said Rist. "They've been very supportive of the direction the Y has chosen to take.

"We wouldn't be able to do it without them."

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Rist said that when the facility is available for members again in July or later this summer, there will be a "slow opening," due to the state-mandated restrictions to ensure that patrons stay safer.

"We will be re-evaluating every couple of weeks," he said. "Certainly, over the next six weeks, we will.

"When we do make the move to open up, it won't be 'full facility,' just yet," Rist said.

"Some of the amenities won't be available right off the bat, due to the restrictions," he said. "We'll be opening in phases, until we're fully functioning."

Rist said that when the Y opens, it will initially open only to members.

The sauna, whirlpool and steam room will not be available in the first phase, due to health concerns, and lockers and child watch services will not be immediately available.

The pool will be used for lap swimming only and will only admit six swimmers at a time.

Y staff will take members' temperatures at the door, and guests will not be permitted entrance.

"It's going to be for people to come in, work out and be on their way," Rist predicted.

The board will add services, as permitted by state guidelines, Rist added.

"Our hope is to be the fully functioning Y, just as everybody's come to expect, but with a new look and feel." 

The Y had stopped drafting membership fees at the end of March, he added.

Rist said the YMCA Summer Camp program for kids ages 5 to 12 is still planned. Only 72 kids will be initially admitted, due to COVID-19 concerns, and activities will be planned for the gymnasium and the Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex fields, if weather permits.

Rist said part of the day may be spent at the sports complex.

Donors may support the "Remodel, Revitalize, Relaunch the Y" project by sending donations to 121 E. Main St., Beckley, WV, 25801.

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