SHERIDAN — Soon, patrons of the YMCA in Sheridan will experience the newly-constructed aquatic center. For the space currently holding the aquatics portion of the facility, YMCA staff is looking for guidance from the community on how to fill it once it has been vacated.
YMCA staff and board members will host two meetings this week at the YMCA, the first on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and the second at 10 a.m. Saturday.
YMCA Executive Director Elisabeth Cassiday said staff and YMCA board members have thought through several ideas of what could potentially utilize that space, but they still would like community input for those ideas and for anything they might have missed. Topping the list for potential renovations includes childcare and after-school programming.
With common affordable housing conversations, Cassiday said, are affordable and accessible childcare opportunities for families.
“Steve Carroll (vice president lending officer of First Northern Bank of Wyoming) said we have a lot of news about affordable housing, but from a banker’s perspective, if you have two incomes, housing can be affordable in this town,” Cassiday relayed.
“But if you have one parent that has to stay home, you can’t afford housing. It’s like the chicken or the egg. If you have affordable childcare, both parents can be in the workforce and how much more affordable is housing?”
Cassiday said she feels the Y is a good place to work toward providing more childcare and supporting private childcare facilities.
In completing research, she said Sheridan’s childcare options have decreased from 42 to 28 since 2010.
“Definitely space (is lacking),” said Alicia Knight, early childhood/after school coordinator for the YMCA. “I have phone calls daily of people trying to get in, and space is definitely a thing because I have to be cautious of my numbers because we’re licensed.”
The existing aquatic center at the YMCA includes a pool dating back to the building’s initial construction 65 years ago.
The lanes are not standard width in either pool and, while they have withstood the test of time with intricate one-inch tiling from floor to ceiling, it was time to improve and expand on a service desperately needed in a city with what seems like endless winter.
The public forum — fashioned after those completed by the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library last year in preparation for potential upgrades and updates to the aging building — is intended to provide construction and program updates and inform the community of the potential uses staff members have already conceived for the building.
“Being able to tell people yes and bring in new families into the Y, gosh, it will be so great. It’ll be so wonderful to get people in our program besides the small quantity that I can serve right now,” Knight said.
Additionally, moving children’s services upstairs and elderly offerings downstairs may help with the practicality of patron ability to climb stairs.
The team is just starting the fundraising plan but wanted to reiterate the repurposing aspect of the project, rather than a complete remodel of the area.
“This building has been — for 65 years — it’s reinvented itself time after time,” Cassiday said. “I think some people get scared like, ‘What if it’s not how it used to be?’ but the Y has never stopped changing, and I think that’s something we’ve come up against.
“We really want people to know we’re looking at spaces, fully recognizing that we’ll continue to change it.”
The staff at the YMCA hope, with the help of community input and suggestions, that the building will continue to adequately serve the population for another 60 years.
Refreshments will be served, and a short presentation will precede comments.