Tag Archives: Mahackeno

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)



Flooded With Swimmers

The Westport Y expected 70 kids at last week’s 2-day Water Rat swim team tryouts.

More than 150 showed up.

There are approximately 210 spots on the squad. With up to 170 swimmers returning from last season, that’s plenty of competition.

Head coach Ellen Johnston cites the Summer Olympics as contributing to the surge. She also points to the strength of the team, its history, and the coaching staff. Betsy Matheney was just named Connecticut Age Group Coach of the Year; Mark Sedlak won that honor in 2011.

The Y hopes to leverage the surge of interest with a new initiative. “Just Add Water Soon” — aka JAWS — aims to raise an additional $1.5 million by October 29 to expand the planned 25-yard lap pool at the new Mahackeno facility by 2 lanes (to 10).

JAWS would also widen the warm-water family/teaching pool by 7 feet.

October 29 is the date the Y boards are expected to sign off on the final design documents for Mahackeno.

A view from the back of the planned 54,000-square foot Y at Mahackeno. The aquatic center is on the right. (Robert A.M. Stern Architects)

The Y is 90% on its way to closing its gap of $3 million. That would fully fund the new Y, as planned.

Critics have claimed that the swim program — specifically, the Water Rat team — has been a driving force behind the Y’s move to Mahackeno.

Now, the Y is using a spike in swim interest to add extra lanes and new features. They want to prove that all members — from pre-swimmers to seniors in Aqua Fitness class — will benefit.

It’s Now Allen Raymond Lane

It’s not easy telling an 89-year-old something he doesn’t already know.

But Allen Raymond was genuinely surprised yesterday afternoon. The Westport Y told the former board president it’s renaming the entry road to Mahackeno — the future site of the Y itself — “Allen Raymond Lane.”

The announcement — and presentation of an actual road sign — came at a party celebrating the trustee emeritus’ 89th birthday.

Allen Raymond: The man, and his sign. (Photo by Scott Smith)

Celebrants noted that the year 1923 marked 2 very special events: the opening of the Y in downtown Westport, and the birth of Allen Raymond.

“For the past 88 years, these 2 ‘local institutions’ have remained steadfast in their commitment and dedication to our community and its residents,” Y officials said. “Allen truly embodies the heart and soul of Westport and the Family Y.”

The Y is only one of Raymond’s many civic commitments. In the 1950s he was instrumental in the town’s purchase of Longshore, and development as a town park. He’s devoted countless hours months years serving the Library, Westport Historical Society and Earthplace, among many other organizations.

But it was the Y that honored him yesterday.

Allen Raymond

Rob Reeves — who also knows Raymond through the Green’s Farms Congregational Church and Rotary — credits him with “getting me up to speed quickly” when Reeves took over as the Y’s CEO.

“Allen told me a lot about the history of Westport, and the Y,” Reeves says. “He brought me around, and introduced me to people the Y has been important to. He was such an important connection.”

But despite Raymond’s fondness for (and many links) to history, he is hardly stuck in the past. “He speaks often about how change is good,” Reeves notes. “He’s not afraid of moving forward.”

Renaming Sunny Lane “Allen Raymond Lane” is perfectly good change, Reeves adds.

“Allen has said that when he was a kid, his goal was to live in Westport.

“He not only did that — he also made Westport better in so many ways.

“We’re honored to be able to give something back to him, in some small way, for all he’s done for the Y, and for Westport.”

Click below for a YouTube video: Y chairman Jim Marpe surprising Allen Raymond with the news of his new lane.

That Roar You Heard On River Lane…

The Westport Weston Family Y has received a 5-year extension on the sale of its downtown building.

According to WestportNow.com, the original plan was to break ground for the Mahackeno facility this year, and move in in 2011.  Litigation by neighbors, and the difficult economy affecting the developer (Bedford Square Associates) has pushed the schedule back 2 years.

But sources have told “06880” that the economy is hitting the Y hard too.  It’s tough to raise $42 million for a controversial new building these days — and the capital campaign has not even begun.

Money, Cyndi Lauper says, changes everything.

So does no money.


The Westport Weston Family Y has thrown in the towel, “06880” has learned.

According to inside sources, the organization is abandoning its decade-long pursuit of a new building at Mahackeno.  Instead, after leaving its Church Lane location within a year, the Y will consolidate operations at a variety of sites around town.

Swim and cardio programs, for example, will move to Staples High School. “Granted, the fitness center there is much smaller than what we’ve got now,” Y CEO Robert Reeves said.  “But the pool is adequate, I think.”

The Y would have access to Staples facilities only when the high school is not using them — including after-school events. “It’s not the best solution,” Reeves admitted.  “But tough times call for desperate measures.”

Basketball and gymnastics programs will be held in the Assumption Church gym on Riverside Avenue.  Years ago, it was used by a parochial school.

Yoga and other classes will be sub-contracted to private fitness centers around town.  Child care may be handled by the Staples child development classes, if scheduling problems can be worked out.

Several Y offerings, such as squash and racquetball, may end if no suitable sites can be found, Reeves acknowledged.

“Obviously, some details remain to be worked out,” the CEO said.  “But we are committed to making this work soon — by next April 1, at the latest.”

For further details of the plan, click here.