Y 555? ‘There are many things attractive about it,’ says head of YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka about potential Barrie location

There is a cap of about $65 million to build the new Barrie Y

The YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka is counting on 555 Bayview Drive to be its new home sweet home in Barrie.

“There are many things attractive about,” says Jill Tettmann, President and CEO of the YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka.

The organization announced on Wednesday that it has selected a potential location for the new Barrie YMCA on city-owned property, which also hosts Sadlon Arena.

“The search follows 10 months of extensive site assessments and more than 10 potential locations to seek out the best available location to provide the YMCA with the opportunity to create a safe, vibrant and welcoming centre that has been in the works for so long,” the YMCA said in a news release.

Tettmann echoed those comments in an interview with Barrie 360.

She says the many things that are attractive about the potential location include the space provided and the cost to build the facility.

“What this site offers us is space. It offers us three acres. We looked in and around the downtown and we were getting just under one acre to build, and it just wasn’t going to meet our vision of what we wanted in our new YMCA.”

A year ago, the YMCA walked away from a possible build at the H-Block downtown, adjacent to the Barrie Public Library due to what Tettmann says was cost escalation.

“It really was about a space that was too small for us, and the ability to have to park and build underground parking or above-ground parking, which became very costly.”

In fact, the tab was in the neighbourhood of $90 million.

“We are looking at a lease from the city, so we will not be purchasing the land,” says Tettmann. “We are looking at a cap of $65 million. The price was brought down quite substantially because of the cost of parking.”

She says with three acres there will be enough space for about 130 to 150 surface parking spots.

“So we have saved a lot of money from both the purchase of land and parking to be able to bring our cost to around 60, 65 million.”

Answering any critics who say the new facility is too close to the YMCA’s Innisfil site, Tettmann says they did a lot of research on that.

“We looked at consecutive circular rings around a kilometre, five kilometres and 10 kilometres, and we looked at market share. We did a very extensive market share analysis of all the sites that we were looking at, at least our top three sites, and we believe there is not a lot of overlap, particularly with the Innisfil Y. We believe there is a very big population and a growing population in the south end, and our research told us that our membership would be strongest in that location (555 Bayview Drive) compared to a couple of other locations that we had been looking at.”

Tettmann emphasizes that what is being built is a community centre that goes beyond a place with health and fitness facilities.

The YMCA has a partnership with Youth Haven to build transitional housing along with offering youth outreach programs, and there is also the cardiac and cancer rehab program in partnership with Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.

This doesn’t overlook the fact that the new YMCA in Barrie will be a state-of-the-art health and fitness centre, with an aquatic centre, indoor playground, gymnasium and track, and many community spaces and meeting rooms.

“When people talk about the YMCA, it’s not just a gym, or it’s not just a place to go and work out, it’s a place to connect with people and make new friends and meet up with friends.”

Tettmann and her team are also watching the clock.

“We need to look at some environmental conditions and archaeological conditions, so we’ll be doing that work right away. We anticipate that we will have a shovel in the ground by the fall of 2024.”

In 2021, the Ontario government provided the YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka with a $29.9 million grant for the new build, and that money must be used by the end of March 2027.

The plan is to have the new YMCA front Bayview Drive at the far north end of the current parking lot.