CLARION – A dream for decades, and years of planning came to fruition this week as the new full-service YMCA facility opened its doors in Clarion County.

“What an accomplishment for Clarion County,” YMCA trustee Milissa Bauer told the large crowd gathered Thursday morning in the YMCA’s new gymnasium for the official ribbon cutting ceremony. “This is truly the story of a small rural community that joined together.”

“This place is going to change people’s lives,” YMCA branch director Jesse Kelley said. “God is smiling on us today.”

Despite the negative temperatures outside at the time of the grand opening, the feeling inside was nothing but positive as local dignitaries, YMCA officials, donors and community members gathered to celebrate the occasion and to tour the new 40,000-square-foot, $12 million facility located along Mayfield Road, next to the Clarion Oaks Golf Course.

Bauer, who along with Al Lander led the capital campaign that raised the money to build the new YMCA, said that the planning began eight years ago when a group of supporters agreed that it could be done.

“I’m just elated we were able to make it to this day,” she said.

Lander looked at the bigger picture, saying that the county’s forefathers built the county’s institutions, large and small, and handed them off to the next generations.

“Now we add this facility to improve the quality of life [for the area],” he said, noting that the YMCA’s new location is central in the county, and a 15- to 20-minute drive for just about any resident.

Lander credited the many local donors who “dug deep” to support the project, including the Kriebel family which donated much of the land, and golf course owners Dana and Karen Davis who contributed the remaining land needed.

He said that the YMCA was built with large windows on all sides so that those using its facilities could see the amazing views offered by the choice location.

Other speakers at the ribbon cutting included video presentations from state Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) and Gov. Tom Wolf, and comments from Clarion County Commissioners Ed Heasley and Wayne Brosius, Clarion County Economic Development Corp. Director Shannon Barrios, and YMCA officials Kurtis Bell, Gerritt Rex and Tom Spence.

Brosius said the county commissioners were supportive of the project from the beginning, particularly because the new facility would help improve the health of county residents.

“We need help,” he said. “This, I hope, will do wonders. A healthy community is a strong community.”

Looking at the facility from an economic development background, Barrios said that surveys of millennials show that the top thing they look for in a community is a full service health and fitness center.

“This is economic opportunity,” she said. “This is such a gift to the community.”

Following the speeches and the ribbon cutting, guests were able to tour the new building, which includes three levels. The lower floor will soon feature the YMCA’s child care center, while the main floor is home to the swimming pool, gymnasium, a multi-purpose room, locker rooms, chapel and more. The upper floor houses the large fitness center with a wide array of workout equipment and free weights, an indoor walking and running track, and a room for group fitness programs.

The facility also includes an outdoor porch area that connects with the lobby and multi-purpose room, an outdoor play area that will be developed for the child care center, and an area for a soccer field between the YMCA building and the golf course.

For details about the YMCA, along with its programs and membership information, visit www.clarioncountyymca.org or call (814) 764-3400.

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