Construction begins on new YMCA Youth Center

MARQUETTE — It should be business as usual, at least for the next few months, at the YMCA of Marquette County — except for one section of the building.

Construction has begun on the new youth center, located at the YMCA’s Marquette facility at 1420 Pine St.

“It’s a long time in coming, but we are finally getting our youth center back here at the YMCA,” said Michele Butler, chairwoman of the YMCA’s board of directors.

The space will be geared for youths ages 11 to 17 and be about 6,000 to 7,000 square feet, she said.

“There is a gap in our community for space for kids of that age,” Butler said. “The Y used to have a youth center, and we are reinstating that.”

YMCA Chief Executive Officer Jenna Zdunek agreed there’s a gap concerning that age group.

“They need a space to come before school, after school, on days off, to do their homework and just to play,” she said.

If a child wants to get in physical activity, finish homework or play a board game, the youth center’s the place.

“We know that’s such an impactful age, and such an important age group, that we want to make sure we have programming for them so we can really fulfill our mission of the Y and also help our community,” said Zdunek, who pointed out that other groups may use the center.

The youth center also will increase membership revenue, she said.

Zdunek said the hope is that construction, which is being handled by Gundlach Champion, will be finished by June 11 when the summer day camp begins. The center then would be home base for those kids.

Butler said the overall construction cost is $72,000, with an additional $8,000 to $9,000 needed for the interior of the space, including items like a bouldering wall and computers.

The YMCA has been undergoing efforts to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy following recent financial difficulties.

Former CEO Lisa Coombs-Gerou resigned her position in 2016 after being placed on administrative leave as the YMCA faced financial hardship that arose from money being spent beyond the organization’s capabilities.

However, that situation is not expected to impact the youth center.

“We paid for every penny prior to starting construction,” Zdunek said. “We’re definitely being financially responsible now, and that’s why we’re even more excited about starting this, because it’s already paid for.”

Butler noted that money has been designated solely for the new project.

“It’s not taking away from anything that’s going on in our overall plan of reorganization,” she said.

Butler also believes the project is exciting.

“It shows that our community is truly supporting the YMCA,” Butler said. “We’re backing the mission. We have a full board — 21 individuals that are community leaders — that have stepped up, and for this past year and a half, literally helped us save the YMCA of Marquette County.

“All of our vendors, everybody that we worked with, has been very receptive to the fact that we’re all working for the greater good of the community. We’re all volunteers. We’re blessed to have Jenna as our director because she’s helped guide us through this difficult time.”

There is “light at the end of the tunnel,” as Butler put it.

“It’s like the sunshine outside,” Butler said. “You get excited and you know you’re going to make it work.”

For more information on the YMCA, visit www.ymcamqt.org.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.