YMCA floats idea of North Huntingdon recreation center

| Tuesday, March 6, 2012

YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh officials will explore the possibility of building a community recreation center in North Huntingdon.

Representatives from the YMCA, Excela Health and the Norwin Area Community Recreation Commission met yesterday to discuss the project.

Gary Nowading, district vice president for the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, said the parties got together to update the YMCA's new CEO, Rig Riggins, about the possible project.

"The bottom line was just to say, 'Is this something that we want to explore further?' and it came out unanimously that we do," Nowading said about the meeting.

The next step, Nowading said, is for the YMCA to review the site and make sure it's conducive to development of a 50,000- to 60,000-square-foot facility.

Excela Health offered to lease -- or essentially to donate -- a 10-acre plot of land along Route 30, near the new Walmart, for the building.

The total project could cost between $12 million and $14 million, Nowading said.

The YMCA would seek a loan for half of the costs, and the community would be responsible for raising the other $6 million to $7 million, Nowading said.

After the site feasibility step, YMCA officials will meet with key people in the area to see whether the community can raise the money, Nowading said.

Jennifer Miele, vice president of marketing and communications at Excela Health System, said Excela hopes to create a "health care corridor" on Route 30. Excela is developing an outpatient and physician services facility in the nearby Norwin Hills Shopping Center.

If the recreation center is built, Miele said Excela is interested in expanding its sports medicine efforts there.

The Norwin Area Community Recreation Commission will serve as a liaison for the project, said Roy Lenhardt, the interim chairman for the commission, a volunteer group.

"All parties remain highly interested in further exploring how to make a community recreation center a reality," Lenhardt said. "We're continuing to move forward."

The YMCA will conduct its own feasibility study, and the three groups will meet again later.

"Always what they want to look at (is): Does it make financial sense moving forward and what's the likelihood of being able to raise enough to make it a reality?" Lenhardt said.

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