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Racquetball floor Hoerner YMCA

Work will begin soon on the first part of a three-phase renovation at the Hoerner YMCA.

Phase 1 will renovate the Y’s deteriorating racquetball courts into two programming spaces on the first floor and add one larger second floor space for exercise classes.

AC Contracting of Keokuk submitted the low bid of nearly $350,000, and the Hoerner YMCA board awarded the contract for the project in early August. Work is expected to be completed in early 2021.

“The Y is one of the prime attractions that the city has to offer for health and recreation for its citizens,” said board president Bob Korte. “And it’s very important as a place for our young people gather and play.”

The current building opened in January 1975. Over the past few years, a number of improvements have been made at the YMCA, but more were needed, Korte said.

“We’ve been working on improvements for the past couple years now,” he said, noting improvements in the gym, the Community Room/Teen Center and elsewhere. “But it’s time to make some changes in a more comprehensive manner.”

And the usage has changed over the past 45 years. “The concept of the Y and what it offers has changed over the years, and we need it to reflect what the community needs now,” Korte said.

Korte noted that the board has been planning for the improvements for more than two years now. One major part of that effort was a survey to determine community needs and ways the YMCA could respond to those needs.

Among the top needs identified were: adults have the knowledge and support to practice positive habits that include physical activity and health eating; programming that involves the entire family; and increased availability of academic support structures for youth outside of school.

The usage of the racquetball courts has dropped off dramatically over the last 20 years. At one time, members had to pay in advance to reserve court time. Now, only a handful of people play racquetball. And one court has significant damage to the floor from water.

The renovation will construct two multi-purpose rooms on the first floor.

The larger of those rooms will be a space for exercise classes and meeting space. It also will serve as the home to the Y’s Teen Center, which is open to all area teens as a safe space to relax and play after school.

The second room on the main floor will be a smaller meeting space, envisioned as a place for classroom-type meetings or for activities such as tutoring or mentoring.

And a floor will be added to the second story, making a space big enough for large group exercise classes. This space can then be used for the things such as the Y’s karate classes, which are now held in the gym. And that, in turn, will make more gym time available for other sports.

The efforts to-date have been made possible by a key group of civic donors. Roquette America has pledged $500,000 to the effort, while Two Rivers Bank and Trust has pledged $45,000.

Several other businesses and key individual supporters have pledged as much as $15,000 for the projects.

Phases 2 and 3 of the plan will improve the locker rooms and showers.

Poepping Stone Bach and Associates is the architect for the project, and some basic design work has already been done for the locker rooms and showers.

But the YMCA board chose to start the renovations with improvements to the programming space.

“I can’t wait to start offering classes and activities in the new space,” said Mark Smidt, Hoerner YMCA CEO. “This space will add a whole new feel to the Y.”

The initial phases of the YMCA’s capital campaign have succeeded in raising pledges of nearly $800,000. But the cost of phase 1 exceeded the initial estimates, and the cost of phases 2 and 3 are likely to climb, too.

“We’ve succeeded with our fund-raising efforts with some key donors and enthusiastic Y members,” Korte said, “but we need more of our Keokuk and area businesses and citizens to see the value in what we are doing and consider making a contribution to our project.

“We really believe that the completion of these projects will make the YMCA one of the big pluses when trying to attract new people and businesses to our area.”

Locations: Hoerner YMCA