YMCA Invests in Expansion

The Northern Door YMCA is rolling out an expansion plan that will allow for more programming and more room to accommodate its growing numbers. With fundraising efforts through the summer, the organization hopes to begin construction in late fall.

“We have simply outgrown the Northern Door Program Center so we are in the process of raising money to enlarge it and improve it,” said Cyndy Stiehl, member of the Y Board and the Endowment Board.

“When you have all of these different facets of one building, you wouldn’t say it’s at capacity every day,” said Drew Richmond, executive director of the Northern Door Program Center. “But when it does get used heavily, we run out of spaces.”

The new 3,500-square-foot Lifestyle Center will be added to the south side of the building. It will include space for more cardiovascular and strength training equipment, a social lounge and stretching area. Aesthetically, Stiehl said the area will be more beautiful with large windows opening the room to natural light.

Stiehl is a major donor for the project, but her experience with the YMCA goes beyond sitting on a board.

“When I started to go to the Y, I was hurting all over. I was having some health issues that I knew could be made better by losing some weight,” said Stiehl. “Obesity is a huge problem and many people struggle with it. But because of the work I do at the YMCA I have sustained a 50-pound weight loss and I am healthier now than I was 20 years ago.”

Stiehl said it is stories like hers that encourage support from other donors.

“It’s one thing for the Y to ask for money in kind of a nebulous way,” said Stiehl. “That’s the kind of story you hear at the Y all the time. It’s not just the health seekers who are going to get physically fit or because they’ve got cancer and they need specialized support.”

According to Richmond, the Door County YMCA membership is at an all-time high, serving more than 8,000 people.

Plans for the expansion began in 2012 and in 2014, three boards across the Township of Gibraltar and county unanimously voted to grant a zoning variance.

The expansion is the second and final phase of a capital improvement project at the Northern Door location. The first phase of the project expanded the pool mechanical room and the air handling system for the aquatic center. Now, the YMCA looks to secure $1.5 million before beginning the Lifestyle Center expansion.

“The improvement to the pool area was an incredibly important but not very visible investment. Our next improvements will be highly visible and significantly improve the usability of our facility,” said Door County YMCA CEO Tom Beerntsen in an email.

The expanded facility also aims to be safer for those who use it. Larger rooms will allow increased mobility for those with health issues that limit their ability to move around.

“If we expand the lifestyle center, we can add more equipment but more importantly spread out the equipment because it’s too tight,” said Richmond.

The YMCA’s efforts will be pointed at securing funds for the expansion project. Nearly every capital development project is primarily funded by donations and the organization readily admits that a small community such as Door County should not be able to offer these facilities. It can only do so through the support of donors.

“Our goal is to engage with everyone who avails him or herself of what the Y has to offer,” said Stiehl. “Everyone is welcome at the Y and I’m very proud.”

A third phase of the project is planned that will primarily address the aesthetics of the Northern Door YMCA. The organization will not begin fundraising for phase three until the Lifestyle Center expansion is complete.