Foothills YMCA receives Loan Approval for Aquatic Facility

The Foothills Area YMCA has received approval from the USDA Rural Development Program and the South Carolina Community Loan Fund for two loans that will fund the construction of a YMCA aquatic facility on the campus of GHS’s Oconee Memorial Hospital in Seneca. This is a major milestone in the effort to bring such a center to Oconee County. With these loans, the YMCA expects to start construction as soon as this fall on the center, which will include an indoor pool, weight room, exercise areas and a multipurpose recreation field. “We have worked for many years to make this project a reality,” said Greg Enders, MD, chairman of the YMCA Board of Trustees. “Thanks to the support of Greenville Health System (GHS) and the School District of Oconee County, we are within months of starting to build this major new recreational facility.” The YMCA is a leading provider of after-school and youth sports programs as well as summer day camps and is a proponent of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The loans will fund construction of the 8 million-dollar first phase of the project. The YMCA plans to add other amenities to the facility, including a gym as funding becomes available. GHS and the School District of Oconee County will partner with the YMCA on the project. GHS will donate 14 acres of land, valued at more than half a million dollars, near the intersection of S.C. 123 and Sheep Farm Road. GHS will also donate $500,000 over five years. “We applaud the YMCA board and leadership for their vision and persistence in making this important project a reality for the people of Oconee County,” said Scott Sasser, MD, chief clinical officer of GHS’ western region, which includes Oconee County. “This facility aligns perfectly with our mission to provide health care for everyone in our community. It will not only help provide new fitness and wellness options for our residents but will also make Oconee County even more attractive to businesses and people considering our area as a new home. We’re thrilled to be a part of this initiative.” The school district is providing long-term funding for water safety/drowning prevention/swim lessons for the county’s elementary-school students and plans to add swimming to the high school sports available in the county. On April 17, 2017, the Oconee County School Board approved annual payments of $150,000 to the YMCA for 20 years. Payments will begin following the district’s bond sale in March of 2019. “District officials are excited about swimming lessons for elementary school students and the opportunity to offer swimming as a high school sport,” said Dr. Michael Thorsland, Superintendent of the School District of Oconee County. The new facility will allow for fitness programs for all ages, more youth sports and year-round aquatic programs for all ages. The YMCA aquatic facility in phase 1 will include an indoor pool, weight room, group fitness rooms, locker rooms, child watch, teen space, lobby and youth sports fields. Phase 2 will include a gymnasium, and Phase 3 is the outdoor water park. Nationally, the YMCA is a leader in aquatics, youth sports, fitness and childcare. This facility will expand the services of the current Foothills Area YMCA that has been serving the Clemson, Central and Oconee County areas for over 120 years. In the past, the Foothills Area YMCA has operated on the campus of Clemson University, at Y Beach, and currently offers programs through Gignilliat Community Center, the Pickens and Oconee county school districts, the Conservatory and Walhalla Pool. “This project is a huge win for Oconee County and the surrounding region,” said Brendan Buttimer, the Upstate community development loan officer of the South Carolina Community Loan Fund. “When we looked at the partners involved, the management team and especially the impact of the YMCA, we knew we wanted to support it. It is a dream project for us.” The YMCA will repay the loans over a 35-year period from membership fees and capital campaign donations. To offset the costs of operating the center and repaying the loans, the YMCA has started a capital campaign to raise private donations from business and individuals. Richard Cottingham has graciously agreed to be the campaign chairman. “We are confident that Richard Cottingham is absolutely the best person for the job, and we are excited to see things moving forward so positively,” said Christle Ross, CEO of the Foothills Area YMCA. “The YMCA will truly be a place for all ages and stages of life. We are thrilled to finally have the loans and to begin plans for construction. The Foothills Area YMCA hopes to break ground this fall with facility completion in late 2019.”