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A new YMCA is opening this spring in Meridian. Why doesn’t it have a pool?

When Meridian community leaders teamed up to build a new YMCA and a St. Luke’s wellness center in a building attached to a new elementary school, they turned to voters to pay for a swimming pool.

The voters drowned the idea. In November 2016, the request by the West Ada Recreation District to borrow $20 million for two pools — one at the YMCA and another in north Meridian failed after winning 51 percent of the vote, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed.

That was a stumbling block for YMCA executives. “We know that aquatics is a big part of providing needed services for the community,” said David Duro, CEO and president of the Treasure Valley Family YMCA.

But not for long.

The YMCA decided to keep moving forward with its plans to finish the Y at Eagle and Amity roads, adjacent to Hillsdale Elementary School, without a pool. The fitness center is scheduled to open May 25.

And now the Y is preparing to build the pool itself. Last week, Duro said a campaign will begin soon to collect $9 million to $10 million to build a pool building next to the west side of the new Y. Duro said the YMCA hopes to have pledges in place within 18 months.

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Mike Kapuscinski, executive director of the South Meridian Family YMCA, points out features of one of two gyms. This gym is connected to Hillsdale Elementary. Students will have access during the school day for physical education classes, while YMCA members will be able to use it after school, on weekends and during school breaks. John Sowell jsowell@idahostatesman.com

‘Pools are important’

It’s important, Duro said, that children in the fast-growing area learn how to swim so they can keep safe in the water. Idaho has the second-highest rate of drownings for children ages 1 to 5, trailing only Florida.

Pools also serve high school swimming programs, senior citizen and people who need exercise-based rehabilitation.

“Pools are important,” he said. “We have to get one here.”

The new YMCA is about 6 miles southeast of the 12-year-old Homecourt Y at 936 Taylor Avenue, which includes a fitness studio, weights and four basketball courts. The city of Meridian paid the YMCA $4 million in 2016 to buy Homecourt and use it to expand the city’s community sports programs and class offerings. The Y used the proceeds to help pay for the South Meridian Y.

The new Y will be the fourth full-size YMCA in the Treasure Valley. The West Boise Y serves the most people, 20,000; followed by Caldwell, with nearly 17,000; Downtown Boise, 15,000; and Homecourt, 2,000. Only Homecourt lacks a pool.

The YMCA serves 55,000 members throughout the valley. Mike Kapuscinski, executive director for the South Meridian YMCA, said he hopes the Y will draw at least 1,900 families by December and 2,700 by the end of the first year, drawing from Meridian, Kuna and West Boise. Homecourt memberships will be transferred to the new Y.

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An artist’s rednering of the fitness room, which will have cardiovascular machines and a four-level family play structure called the Adventure Zone. Provided by the Treasure Valley Family YMCA

Y’s studios have garage doors for warm days

The two-story, 60,000-square-foot building will include group-exercise studios with garage doors that can open during nice weather to allow participants to move outside. A four-level play structure called the Adventure Zone will encourage families to play together. There is a play room for children 7 and older and one for younger kids, and an indoor playground.

Fitness areas will include cardiovascular machines. The Y also includes a room with a teaching kitchen and an auditorium that can be separated into three rooms.

The Y is attached to the north side of Hillsdale Elementary School, which opened last fall. The school will share classroom space with the YMCA’s child development programs.

The Y also built a gym on the south end of the building that shares a common wall with the school. The gymnasium will provide space for Hillsdale physical education classes during the day and for YMCA basketball and other games after school, on weekends and during school breaks.

Security doors will prevent Y members from accessing the gym during school hours and will keep them out of the school when the gym is open for YMCA activities.

St. Luke’s Health System will operate an urgent care clinic and a separate wellness clinic in 8,000 square feet inside the building. In addition, the YMCA has partnered with the city to build a 10-acre city park. Hillsdale Park will include sports fields, a half-mile pathway, picnic shelters, benches meant to resemble hay bales and a playground with a toy tractor.

The Meridian Library District plans to build a library at the site, too.

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The South Meridian Family YMCA is under construction next to Hillsdale Elementary School. The Y, which is scheduled to open May 25, will have partnerships with the West Ada School District and St. Luke’s Health System. John Sowell jsowell@idahostatesman.com

‘The center of the community’

The 23-acre site, known as The Hill, was part of a 160-acre first homesteaded in 1891, Angus Hill and his descendants raised sheep there. Hill’s grandson, Marti, and his partner, Dixie Cook, donated 15 acres for the school, park and YMCA. Brighton Corp., which is developing the Century Farm subdivision on former Hill land in the neighborhood, gave the West Ada School District land for the school.

“This is going to be the center of the community as far as family activities go,” Duro said.

The YMCA raised $18.5 million to open the Y, with contributions from companies, foundations, individuals and families.

Kapuscinski, the executive director, said he is eager for members to experience the new fitness center.

“I hope their first reaction will be, ‘finally,’ because they’ve been waiting for so long for a place like this,” he said.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @JohnWSowell

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