Schenectady County

Schenectady YMCA turns eyes to Center City

The YMCA is paring down its plans for an ambitious and expensive new Schenectady branch.

The YMCA is paring down its plans for an ambitious and expensive new city branch.

Instead of spending more than $8 million on a new building near Union College, the agency may move into Center City at the heart of the downtown.

It would be much cheaper to build a YMCA branch on the ground floor of Center City than to construct a brand-new building, Capital District YMCA President and CEO J. David Brown said. Although he won’t know the full cost until architects draw up the plans and engineers survey Center City, he said it’s possible the branch could be done there for about $4 million — the amount of money raised so far for the project.

“In preliminary conversations about the concept, we feel we could build something,” Brown said. “We could definitely deliver a YMCA people would be happy with and we could afford.”

Not only is Center City a cheaper option, but he also thinks the location is great. There’s ample parking in the back, a bus stop near the front door, and office workers surround the building,

“There’s a lot of pluses to that site,” Brown said. “There’s plenty of square footage — there’s definitely room for a pool.”

Center City owners have struggled to find a use for the ground floor, which once offered an ice skating rink and now plays host to a variety of soccer, lacrosse and indoor football players. A successful rock-climbing gym also operates at the far edge of the floor; Brown said that business could remain even if the YMCA took over the rest of the space.

When the Galesi Group recently bought the building, officials of that company said they didn’t envision keeping the playing field and its long rows of bleachers, but admitted they weren’t sure what could replace it. There are no direct entrances to the ground floor, making it difficult to market for retail business.

Chief Operating Officer David Buicko said the YMCA could be the perfect solution to the awkward space.

“We would never be doing retail on the ground level,” he said. “The Y could be complimentary. It’s the best location in town.”

Brown still has to get approval from his project donors before signing any deals with Galesi. He said the donors he’s spoken with so far are happy with the new plan, but if anyone says no, he’ll have to decide between returning their money or finding an acceptable site elsewhere.

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