A rendering of the proposed YMCA expansion
The facility would be renamed the Bob Adams Family Community YMCA. | YMCA of West Central Florida

The Lakeland Family YMCA may be one step closer to a major expansion and a new name after the City’s Planning and Zoning Board meets on Tuesday. The board will vote on a zoning change that would allow for the construction of a two-story 41,000-square-foot field house and a 4,000-square-foot addition to the childcare building, plus changes to parking and traffic flow.

The plans are part of a $21 million capital improvement project that would dramatically expand the almost 60-year-old facility at 3620 Cleveland Heights Blvd. and nearly double the number of children it can serve.

“We currently have wait lists for our youth programs and our facilities are crowded during peak hours,” Elaine Thompson, chief executive officer of the YMCA of West Central Florida, explained. “Our parking lot is in great need of enlargement.”

A ‘total transformation’

The nonprofit organization’s ambitious solution would “totally transform the facility” with:

  • A new wellness complex with updated equipment and expanded facilities for group classes.
  • A two-story, 41,000-square-foot field house on the northwest corner of the property with two basketball courts, an indoor turf field and an elevated indoor track.
  • Enclosure of an existing concrete pavilion as part of a 4,000-square-foot addition to the childcare building.
  • Plumbing, HVAC, flooring, lighting, and roof work on current YMCA buildings.
  • Reconfiguration of the parking lot with 120 additional parking spaces and new ingress and egress routes. 

The capacity of the YMCA’s summer camps would be doubled from 400 to 800 with the completion of the field house. The addition of two new classrooms would increase the capacity of the facility’s before- and after-school childcare programming by approximately 50 seats.

The existing YMCA facility has about 60,000 square feet of recreation center space and 15,300 square feet of childcare space. The project would increase that by 80% to a total of 116,250 square feet of recreation center space and 19,300 of childcare space. The number of parking spaces would increase to 285.

If the Planning and Zoning Board votes favorably, the proposed zoning modification would go to the Lakeland City Commission for final approval. 

Thompson said phase one of the project could begin in September with the construction of a new 150-space parking lot. Groundbreaking for the field house and wellness complex would follow in March 2024. 

Lakeland-based Rodda Construction has been tapped for the project and Thompson said the YMCA expects to stay fully operational throughout the work, which will take place in four phases with an expected completion date of January 2026. 

New capital campaign

Thompson said the YMCA has been working on this for two years and, thanks to some large contributions, is “getting close to meeting our fundraising goals.” But it’s counting on a new capital campaign and community support to get the project across the finish line.

“Due to a generous gift from Bob Adams and his family, the new facility once constructed will be called the Bob Adams Family Community YMCA,” Thompson said in a press release. “The new field house will be named the George Jenkins Field House because of the continued charitable support received from the George Jenkins Foundation.”

The field house would be built over existing parking spaces on the northwest end of the YMCA’s parking lot, near the current exit onto Cleveland Heights Boulevard. That exit would be closed off, and all traffic would enter and leave the property from its southern border on Westover Boulevard instead. 

The main entrance on Westover would be shifted eastward about 70 feet farther from the traffic light at Cleveland Heights Boulevard to create more separation from the intersection.

The proposed George Jenkins Fieldhouse would be located along Cleveland Heights Boulevard. | YMCA of West Central Florida

City planners estimate that the expansion would generate an additional 1,372 trips daily, bringing the cumulative daily total to 3,828 trips with 404 during the morning peak and 467 during the afternoon peak. However, city staff wrote: “The traffic analysis does not show that the additional traffic will cause this section of Cleveland Heights Boulevard to operate at a failing level of service.”

To prevent backups on the southbound left turn lane at Cleveland Heights Boulevard and Westover Street, planners recommended extending the turn lane by about 40 feet.

City staff also recommended a path to connect the YMCA to the Three Parks Trail – a 3.5-mile loop that links Woodlake Park, the Cleveland Heights Golf Course, Common Ground Park and Dog Leg Woods Park.

Meeting a need

Thompson said the expansion is necessary to help the YMCA better serve the community and fulfill its mission of supporting youth development and healthy living.

“Between our childcare programs and our youth sports programs over 700 children will be provided service this month,” Thompson said. “In addition, over the next 10 weeks, we will have 1,600 kindergarteners from the Polk County School District participate in our drowning prevention program here at the Lakeland Family YMCA and Fontaine Gills Family YMCA pools.”

Upon the project’s completion, the YMCA hopes to offer several new health and wellness programs, cooking classes, fitness classes and youth sports activities. 

The site plan shows the location of the proposed field house and the reconfiguration of the parking lot. | Planning & Zoning Board agenda

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Salvatore Ambrosino is a journalism student at Florida Southern College who grew up in Mulberry.

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