Wednesday, November 14, 2007

YMCA makes a splash in Ketchum

At least 1,500 head to new facility over weekend

Express Staff Writer

Climber Jeremy Scherer has been cragging for 13 years and will help teach climbing classes at the Wood River Community YMCA. Climbing gym manager Dave Hanning said the climbing gym is open from 4 p.m to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Hours will expand as demand dictates, and Hanning said events and competitions are anticipated. Photo by Willy Cook

After 10 years of planning and fundraising, and then after a week of gearing up to full speed, the Wood River Community YMCA threw its doors open on Saturday, Nov. 10, and the community appears to have responded.

"We didn't have an attendance goal, but whatever it would have been we exceeded it," said Memberships Director Mike Wolter. "We were Grand Central, I think."

Wolter said at least 1,500 people traipsed into the Y over the weekend, and maybe that many on Saturday alone.

"We had kids. We had families. We had seniors. You name it, we had it," he said, adding that a conservative estimate of memberships taken out in the first week or so of operation stands at about 550.

The $22 million Y in Ketchum includes a climbing wall, swimming pools, weight lifting facilities, yoga and fitness studios and office space. It is located at the corner of Saddle and Warm Springs roads and opened its doors for the first time on Monday, Nov. 5, for a "soft opening," which meant charter members could use the facility on a limited schedule for the first week. Charter members are people who had already taken out memberships or who took out memberships during the first week.

Climbing director Dave Hanning was excited about expanding hours and childrens' programs for the climbing wall. He said an eventual competition would be put together between climbers at the Y Rocks! facility in Hailey and the new Ketchum Y.

"They're going to love this facility," he said.

Jeremy Scherer, a Wood River native with 13 years of experience rock climbing in central Idaho, was excited that he would have the opportunity to take his crag-honed skills and mentor area children in the safety of a controlled indoor climbing facility.

"We have some good climbing in the Sawtooths and at City of Rocks, so this facility will really help provide a much needed outlet for training," he said.

Hanning expanded.

"It's only just getting under way," he said, "and the vision for growth into the future is exciting."

But of all the facilities, Wolter said, the aquatics center has perhaps received the most attention thus far.

"In terms of sheer numbers it's the swimming pool," he said. "The kids and the families are diving right into the warm-water pool. It's packed. The lap pool is getting a lot of use, too."

But that's not to say the other new amenities are sitting idle.

"We had at least two meetings today of outside organizations using the Y for meeting space," Wolter said Tuesday afternoon.

With opening of the YMCA in Ketchum, the Wood River Valley joined more than 2,500 YMCAs across the country. Collectively they're the largest not-for-profit community service organization in America.

"We are so thrilled to be working on this YMCA project, bringing a Y to the Wood River Community," stated Wood River YMCA Chief Executive Officer Teresa Beahen and board Chairperson Cynthia Murphy on the organization's Web site.

The two women encouraged people to get involved and to help shape the Wood River Community YMCA by joining a committee, attending an open house, volunteering for a program or visiting the Y's offices to learn more about program offerings.

"Ys are for people of all faiths, races, abilities, ages and incomes," they said. "No one is turned away due to an inability to pay. YMCAs' strength is in the people they bring together. The Wood River Community YMCA will be no different."

The Wood River Community YMCA began a decade ago as the Janss Center. Following an initially bumpy start, the group became a YMCA almost four years ago, and some of the board members have been involved throughout.

Glenn Janss, widow of the late Bill Janss, remained a key cornerstone in the effort, and she helped celebrate the Y's opening Friday night at a campaign donor event, to which more than 400 attended. For her part, Janss raised $2 million, including a major gift from the George and Delores Dore Eccles Foundation.

The project picked up considerable momentum two years ago when, in the November 2005 election, Ketchum voters approved by a roughly two-thirds majority an advisory question of whether the city should lease the property to the Y for $1 per year for 99 years.

"Every aspect has exceeded our expectations," Wolter said. "We had no idea we would be so busy over the weekend. We couldn't have hoped for an outpouring of people being so excited and nothing but smiling faces and positive comments.

"And people who can't believe we haven't had this for so many years."

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