This article is the first installment of a two-part series on the attainment of a cutting-edge YMCA in the Upper Perkiomen Valley. Next week’s installment will highlight its construction, the new jobs it will bring to the area and brand new program offerings.
If you’ve visited 1399 Quakertown Road, Upper Hanover, lately, you have no doubt seen heavy machinery preparing the site for a new 72,000-sq.-ft. Upper Perkiomen Valley YMCA. But what you may not know are what events led to the realization of that $17 million goal.
After more than a decade of waiting, the state-of-the-art facility is coming to fruition thanks to an initial investment by two area families.
Upper Perkiomen YMCA Executive Director Michael Tannous this week said a town meeting back in May 1956 kicked off a series of events that identified the community’s greatest needs. In a summer 1956 Town and Country article, those priorities, according to community members, were building a local swimming pool and other recreational facilities.
Soon after, William and Winnie Kistler and Ernest and Helen Bitting of Upper Hanover jointly donated a 48-acre parcel of land to the community. The Upper Perkiomen Recreation Council was formed to oversee the use of the land.
The property deed stated the mix of wooded area and open fields be used “only as a park and recreation facility…forever.”
The recreation council opened a pool on the land in 1957. Almost 40 years later, the council turned that property, known as the Kistler-Bitting Park, over to the Upper Perkiomen Valley YMCA, Tannous said. The Y has been using about 16 acres of that land for outdoor swimming, summer camp, a skate park, and basketball and youth baseball leagues.
Funding for the new facility came, starting in 2001, from a capital campaign which raised $1,142,903 from 274 business and private donors, according to Tannous. The push to build new facilities at that time, however, was scrapped due to the inability to find a suitable building site. The initial site at Kistler-Bitting Park, across the Macoby Creek from the current parcel, was deemed too rocky to develop.
Another $1 million was donated by the Pottstown YMCA Endowment Fund in 2008 to bring the funding total to just over $2 million.
A current capital campaign is raising $2 million and the rest of the cost, a whopping $13 million, is being financed by the greater association, the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA, Tannous said.
After an October 2013 groundbreaking, the remaining 32 acres are being developed, with some significant site work, into a facility complete with indoor pools and an indoor track. Tannous said it will bring all the Y offers to one strategically-located campus.
“I think it’s really important to communicate that this full-facility Y is coming to our area because we are beneficiaries of other people’s generosity. We aren’t owed this, we’re being gifted this. People gave land, people gave money. We would never see a building of this caliber by ourselves without such generous help and the strategic mission of the Y.”
“I want people to know this is not going to be an elite swim and gym. It is going to look like it, but it isn’t. We have great programs that many people might not realize they have access to,” he said, referring to financial aid and other programs offered by the Y.
For more information on the Upper Perkiomen Valley YMCA, and to get construction updates, visit the Y’s Facebook page, “Upper Perk YMCA” or call 215-679-9622.