Category Archives: YMCA

Y Cuts The Ribbon; Long Journey Is Almost Complete

video tribute featuring Allen Raymond was the emotional highlight of yesterday evening’s Westport Y ribbon-cutting ceremony. But there were many other memorable moments too, at the new Mahackeno facility.

The spacious new parking lot was filled. Y members, staffers, volunteers and friends gathered to celebrate the move from the 90-year-old downtown facility, to the one off Wilton Road.

Longtime benefactors were honored at a pre-dedication reception inside. The Gault, Mitchell and Tauck families headed the list.

Robin Tauck enjoys one of the Y's new group fitness studios.

Robin Tauck enjoys one of the Y’s new group fitness studios.

Then the group assembled outside the west-facing front entrance. Replicating the work of his predecessor 91 years ago, Reverend Jeffrey Rider of Greens Farms Congregational Church delivered a prayer that invoked the first chapter of the Bible: Rather than dwell alone, mankind should be part of a community.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe continued the theme. He said the Y makes the community more whole, more healthful and more connected.

State Senator John McKinney — a Bedford descendant — described his family’s 5-generation support of the Y.

Board president Bonnie Strittmatter and trustees chairman Pete Wolgast thanked many people. So did Y CEO Rob Reeves, with a special shout-out to principal designer Kevin Smith.

Y CEO Rob Reeves, and  the crowd in the big new parking lot.

Y CEO Rob Reeves, and the crowd outside the new building.

After the ribbon was cut, 250 people poured into the new Y. The adults ate, talked and toured, while the kids romped in the new gym.

It was a great start. But it’s premature. Until final inspections are done and permits are issued — hopefully within a few days — the downtown Y will linger on.

Enjoying the evening (from left): Ruth Sherman, who has taught aqua fitness at the Y since the 1960s; former CEO Helene Weir, who came from Canada, and Patty Kondub, a popular Y spin and aqua teacher. (Photos/Scott Smith)

Enjoying the evening (from left): Ruth Sherman, who has taught aqua fitness at the Y since the 1960s; former CEO Helene Weir, and Patty Kondub, a popular Y spin and aqua teacher. (Photos/Scott Smith)



Allen Raymond Helps Dedicate New Y

Allen Raymond did many remarkable things in his 91 years of life on earth. The lifelong Westporter was a philanthropist, tireless volunteer, devoted church member, political leader, and adviser to selectmen. He was also one of the Westport Family Y‘s longest-serving, proudest board members, and a major contributor to the new Mahackeno facility.

He died on May 1 — less than 4 months before tonight’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. But Allen was not only at Mahackeno in spirit — he was really, truly there.

Y officials showed a video of their beloved benefactor. Filmed at Allen’s home in February — when he knew his life was ebbing away — it shows him at his best. He’s smiling warmly, joking gently, speaking lovingly and gracefully.

The new Mahackeno Y will hopefully thrive as long as its downtown predecessor did: 90 years. Yet in the next 9 decades, it’s hard to imagine any moment that can top tonight’s amazing appearance — one last time — by Allen Raymond.

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube. Filmed, edited and produced by Brian Russell of Red Shoe Film. Aerial footage by Rick Eason.)

262,672 Gallons

On Tuesday the Y began filling its new 10-lane, 25-yard lap pool at Mahackeno.

After a final coat of plaster was applied to the pool shell, Ellen Johnston — the Y’s Water Rat head coach and swim program director — took a ceremonial turn with the hose.

Y pool being filled

Just 24 hours later, here’s what it looked like:

Y pool nearly filled

Now the water will be conditioned for at least 10 days. Then it will be inspected, and certified for public use.

The Y will open the new facility when every area is ready. They’re shooting for early September.

Meanwhile, everyone into the pool — the soon-to-be-old one, downtown.

Kemper Gunn: 3-0 And Done

This morning, the board of selectmen approved a lease for the Kemper Gunn house. The vote was unanimous: 3-0.

Soon it will move across Elm Street, to the Baldwin parking lot. The Y will already have left, and the renovation/reconstruction/renaissance of Church Lane will begin.

Bedford Square will become a reality. Kemper Gunn will be leased to non-chain outlets.

Downtown will never look or be the same.

In a very good way.

An artist's rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it is moved to the Baldwin parking lot.

An artist’s rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it  is moved to the Baldwin parking lot.


Uh Oh: Y Opening Is Delayed

Construction delays, and the uncertainty of receiving necessary permits and certifications, have forced Westport Family Y leaders to reschedule the official opening of the new Mahackeno facility. The Y had expected to greet all Westporters with a free open house over Labor Day weekend.

A new opening date — hopefully early September — will be announced later this month.

The dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Y will take place as previously scheduled on Thursday, Aug. 28 (7 p.m.).

The rear view of the new Mahackeno Y.

The rear view of the new Mahackeno Y.

Kemper-Gunn House Moves One Step Closer To Move

Historic Church Lane is nearing its new look.

Earlier today, a notice was posted in the Baldwin parking lot. It announces a hearing next Wednesday (August 13, 8:30 a.m., Town Hall Room 309) regarding a .13-acre lease in the lot. The board of selectmen will be asked to approve a lease, to accommodate the relocation of the Kemper-Gunn House from across Elm Street.

That vacated property will then become part of the retail/residential development that replaces the soon-to-be-vacated Westport Family Y.

The Baldwin parking lot lease, which has already been approved by the Board of Finance and Planning & Zoning Commission, awaits final Board of Selectmen action.

The meeting announcement sign, in the Baldwin parking lot.

The meeting announcement sign, in the Baldwin parking lot.

According to 3rd Selectman Helen Garten — a member of the Kemper-Gunn Advisory Group — “the lease creates a unique public-private partnership that not only will ensure the preservation of a historic downtown structure, but also will return the building to productive commercial use as a home for small, independent businesses.”

Major components of the plan include rental of the Baldwin lot land by the town to DC Kemper-Gunn LLC for 50 years, with renewal options up to 98 years.

DC Kemper-Gunn LLC will own the house and pay for all site work, relocation expenses, renovation and ongoing maintenance and repairs. The town will incur no operating expenses.

An old door and lock, in the Kemper-Gunn house. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

An old door and lock, in the Kemper-Gunn house. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

DC Kemper-Gunn LLC has agreed to preserve any original exterior features of the house that are in good condition, or replace them with original materials.  Garten hopes that some interior architectural features can be reused or donated to the Westport Historical Society.

The plan calls for refitting the interior for commercial use. The lease requires all tenants to be small, independent, preferably locally owned businesses — no chain stores. Garten says, “Our aim is to add to the diversity and vibrancy of our downtown business offerings.”

The town will receive taxes on the building and improvements, as well as rent and — eventually — a share of net profits generated by the commercial rental operation.

“Since we are receiving no income now, this is a net gain to the town financially,” Garten notes. “But the real reward for Westport is how this venture will help restore a sense of place to our downtown.”

The actual relocation is tentatively set for November. A giant Elm Street block party may accompany the move.

An artist's rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it is moved to the Baldwin parking lot.

An artist’s rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it is moved to the Baldwin parking lot.


Mahackeno Y Opens August 29; Long Journey Ends, New Road Begins

The new Westport Family Y at Mahackeno faced years of approval and litigation delays.

But once construction began 17 months ago, the Y raced ahead.

Now — ahead of schedule — the new facility is almost ready for prime time.

The final touches are underway. The cardio and weight machines are rolling off the truck. Next month, the pool will be filled.

On the evening of Thursday, August 28, a ribbon will be cut. The next day — at the usual bright-and-early start time of 5:30 a.m. — the Wilton Road building opens for business. Throughout that Labor Day weekend, the community is invited to use the new Y, for free.

The view of the new Y, from Mahackeno.

The new Y, as seen from Mahackeno.

It’s just 2 miles from the 90-year-old Bedford facility downtown. But measured another way, it’s a world apart.

The old Y — which includes the Weeks Pavilion, shoehorned in 36 years ago next to a former fire station — had 17 different elevations on the 1st floor alone. The Mahackeno building has 2 normal stories.

Westport Y CEO Rob Reeves stands proudly by the nearly completed front entrance.

Westport Y CEO Rob Reeves stands proudly by the nearly completed front entrance.

It’s also got:

  • The Gault Welcome Center, including tables and seats.
  • A 10-lane pool — with lanes wider than the current Y’s — and an adjacent 20-yard warm water/family therapy pool.
The pool is scheduled to be filled in mid-August.

The pool is scheduled to be filled in mid-August.

  • The Vince and Linda McMahon Gymnasium with 4 adjustable basketball hoops, and scoreboards. It’s also lined for badminton, pickleball and volleyball.
  • A cafe serving healthy food.
  • A “Fort Mack” play space featuring slides and other fun equipment, to be used when siblings are in the pool or parents are taking classes.
Youngsters admire the light and airy new Y.

Youngsters admire the light and airy new Y.

  • A cycling room, with 21 new bikes.
  • 3 studios for dance, cardio and Zumba classes, and small-group personal training.
  • Adult locker rooms with steam and saunas. There are youth lockers too, plus a special one for families and dependent adults.
  • A large cardio and weight room — the Robin Tauck Wellness Center — filled with all new equipment. Large windows look out onto woods and the Saugatuck River.
Cardio machines are delivered to the Robin Tauck Wellness Center.

Cardio machines are delivered to the Robin Tauck Wellness Center.

It’s a serene setting — if you ignore the traffic speeding by on the nearby Merritt. (Every part of the building is oriented away from that side.)

The Y has planted 300 trees. They’ve regraded some of the Mahackeno land — and upgraded much of what was in the old Y.

The road from downtown to Mahackeno is fairly straight. But the route the Y has traveled had countless twists and turns.

Next month, they’ll unveil a new map. They hope it will guide them for the next 90 years.

Y - rear view

Last Call For The Old Y’s Guys

Annual meetings of the “YMCA Association” are generally humdrum affairs.

They’re legally required, but most business is routine. Official business is conducted; youth, staff and volunteers are honored; new members join the boards.

Folks got het up a while back over the Y’s plan to leave its longtime home downtown for the Mahackeno property, but that’s a done deal. Now it’s back to well-we-gotta-do-‘em annual meetings.

This year, though, will be different.

The 90th annual meeting of “the Association” is the last one in the 1923 building. So the Y is honoring its history there.

The Bedford Building lobby in 1923. Former staffers and ex-members can see it again on June 16.

The Bedford Building lobby in 1923. Former staffers and past members can see it again on June 16.

At 12 noon on Monday, June 16, former staffers and past members are invited to an open house. It’s the last chance many will get to see the old Y (and the newer, narrow, already crumbling 1978 addition).

They can enjoy a workout and swim, gratis.

At 4 p.m., the “extended Y family” reunite in the gym. Old photos and displays will highlight the Y’s presence in Westport since the Harding administration.

There’s a reception at 4:30 p.m. The general meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. If anyone is still there.

Earthplace Will Add Childcare

With the Y skedaddling from downtown, and no childcare facilities available in the new Mahackeno building, Westport parents are scrambling for alternatives.

Earthplace hopes to help.

EarthplaceIn September the non-profit adds an innovative all-day, 12-month program for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds to its already popular nursery school, summer day camp, nature programs, interactive natural history museum, live animal hall and 74-acre wildlife sanctuary.

The childcare program will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. During the school year, children will be based in the nursery school. In the summer they’ll participate in the summer camp.

Taking traditional childcare one step further, Earthplace will offer a developmentally appropriate environment that is immersed in nature. The program will include animal encounters, trail walks, habitat exploration, music, singing and gym.

The teacher-to-child ratio is 1:6. Teachers will schedule home visits to meet families before children enter the program.

Earthplace hosts an open house this Saturday (May 31, 10 a.m.-noon) for interested families. For more information, call 203-557-4400 or click on the Earthplace website.

The Most Important Downtown Question Of The Day

For decades, Westporters have marked the arrival of spring by this spectacular sight in front of the Y:

YMCA spring 2

It lasts for only a few days. But it’s as much a part of Westport as — well, the Y itself.

A few months from now, the Y moves to Mahackeno. Construction will begin on Bedford Square, an exciting retail/residential/office complex that could remake downtown Westport as we know it.

But will it be done with — or without — these 3 beautiful trees?