Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA will construct a new, state-of-the-art facility at the site of its current building, "community willing," the organization announced this morning.

Details of the size, layout and look of the new facility have not been determined, but its estimated cost is $18 million to $21 million. Y officials hope to launch a capital fundraising campaign next spring and break ground in the spring of 2019. The new facility would open in fall 2020, and the current facility would remain open until at least then.

The announcement represented a large shift from the organization's plan unveiled in February to raise at least $24 million and build a new facility in the Port of Dubuque. 

"I think our board did a lot of work to come to this decision ... and really vetted every possibility and every partnership," said Y President and CEO Sharon Covey. "And all roads led us right back here to Booth Street."

Y officials had pondered a partnership with Dubuque Community Schools to build a joint aquatic center in the Port of Dubuque. And in February, the Y unveiled a preliminary plan for a two-story facility encompassing 76,000 to 90,000 square feet on a 12-acre, City of Dubuque-owned lot west of the McGraw-Hill Higher Education building at 501 Bell St. Officials said at the time that they considered four possible sites, including the current site on North Booth Street. 

But legal restrictions on how the school district could use its funds made such a partnership infeasible, according to district and city officials. State law prevents the district from building a pool or aquatic center that is not primarily a school facility.

"It would have been hard to build an off-site facility and remain the primary user," said Superintendent Stan Rheingans. "We told the Y we are still open to collaboration ... but it didn't quite meet their needs to build something on our site."

As a result, Y officials re-evaluated the scope and location of the project, which all parties clearly understood, said Dubuque City Manager Mike Van Milligen.

"And (we) sure understand when you already have a site and it fits your needs, it doesn't create much motivation to pick another site," he said. "And the city is fine with that."

Covey said Y officials own close to eight acres on North Booth Street, with open land to the west and north of its the current building that a team of architects and engineers deemed sufficient for a new facility.

"It's centrally located. It's easy to get to," she said. "And it's easy to come in and out of this building, and people are used to coming to this building."

The Y's board of directors does not intend to raise rates the first year the new facility opens, according to a document of "frequently asked questions" regarding the announcement. Financial assistance also will continue to be available for those in need.

Dennis Buchheit, chairman of the Y board, said the new facility will accommodate new programming, including diabetes prevention, blood-pressure monitoring, arthritis management and a LiveStrong program for cancer survivors.

He said the site provides a better location to address a local day care shortage.

"There's more physical space here that makes running a day care more safe" and convenient, Buchheit said. "It's a good location tucked into a neighborhood to serve kids."

He and Covey both stressed that the new facility will include a new pool. But among the unanswered questions is how it would be configured and how large it would be.

The current facility would remain open while construction is underway. Parts of the existing building might be re-purposed or incorporated into the new facility's design, Covey said. A house south of the current building eventually will be deconstructed.

Longtime Y member and Dubuque resident Katie Wiedemann sends her children to Y-provided day care at the Finley DCY Child Care Center and pre-school at the North Booth Street site.

"Now, knowing it's all going to be right here in the same location ... it's going to be a lot more time that I get with my kids and less time in my car," she said. "This location is walkable. It's easily driveable. Plus, the YMCA has always been a hub for this area -- for this neighborhood. ... The fact that it's going to stay here, I think it's going to be huge."

Y member and Dubuque resident Aaron Wulfekuhle, 32, said he looks forward to a new pool with more lanes and would like to see space and equipment for CrossFit workouts.

"I work on the South End and my parents are on the West End, so this is all perfectly in the middle," he said today while taking a break from his workout at the Y. "Overall, I couldn't be happier with this spot. I think this is the best spot for it."

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