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Barrie and YMCA sign lease for new facility


After a years-long search, the YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka is finally returning to Barrie.

On Friday night, officials signed a 50-year lease agreement with the City of Barrie to build a new facility at 535 Bayview Drive, directly adjacent to the city-owned Sadlon Arena.

"[I'm] over the moon. I'm so excited," CEO Jill Tettman told CTV News. "We now finally have a site, we have our commitment of funding from the government and we have municipal support and support from the city so we are ready to go! We are in a really good position right now."

The brand-new facility will be located on the northeast corner of the property. It comes more than three years after the YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka decided to close three fitness facilities, including the one in Barrie, due to financial pressures.

The YMCA had been close to securing a location in Barrie's downtown core near the main library branch, but that plan fell apart last year due to skyrocketing costs the CEO blamed mainly on the pandemic.

Tettman says the new location is ideal.

"It gives us space to have surface parking," Tettman told CTV News. "Lots of land that we looked at downtown was too small, too tight, and parking was always an issue, so this particular space gives us a great opportunity for surface parking and land that we can lease from the city."

Plans for the facility are largely unchanged from what was previously unveiled for its proposed location on Barrie's H-block. In addition to the core health and fitness components, it will include an intergenerational hub offering programs for youth and seniors and new childcare spaces.

Envisioned as a community hub, the facility will also work with other partners to offer unique services. It will include a 12-room housing program in partnership with Youth Haven, something the YMCA says is the county's first standalone transitional housing unit for youth.

"Youth Haven now will be part of the building where the design downtown at H-block they were a separate building on the same site," Tettman said.

The YMCA has also partnered with Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre to offer a cardiac and cancer rehabilitation program.

"Our city's been missing the Y over the last number of years while there hasn't been a location," said Mayor Alex Nuttall, who relied on the services of the YMCA often as a child while his family faced financial difficulties at times. "I still remember my councillor's name, Rita, who was there with us!"

The city has been working closely with the YMCA over recent years to help it secure a new location, with the mayor saying he knows its significance to the community firsthand.

"As a kid, you think it's all about the activities, and as you get older, you realize all of the lessons you were learning, the investments you are taking in, the maturing that was happening, that's the community building that takes place one life, one individual at a time and thanks to the YMCA that was done for me," said Nuttall.

The new lease agreement was signed before a crowd of long-time supporters and donors. In attendance was former Barrie Mayor Janice Laking, who herself is very passionate about the project.

"I'm only standing up long enough to recognize the real donors, and those are my children," Laking announced to the packed ballroom. "They said, 'Mother, we don't need you to leave us anything. We want you to leave your money to the Y!'"

The YMCA has secured nearly $30 million in funding from the province through a grant that expires in 2027. It will be relaunching its 100 Reasons Why capital campaign to secure more financial support.

Tettman hopes to have construction begin in the Fall of 2024 with a goal of opening the new facility in the Summer of 2027. Top Stories

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