Reynoldsburg City Council members, along with Mayor Brad McCloud and other city officials, donned hard hats and picked up shovels last week to break ground for a new Reynoldsburg Community Center YMCA.
The ceremony Sept. 28 was held adjacent to the former Reynoldsburg Swim Club, 7215 E. Main St., which was damaged in a fire two years ago.
McCloud said he and many other people in the large crowd attending the event remember early-morning swimming lessons at the club.
"The thrill of qualifying so we could go off the diving board, the excitement we had when we heard, 'Pool two is now open,' the ever-present Mr. (Jim) Barney and Joyce Hanlon, who seemed more of a guardian angel than a lifeguard," he said.
Likening the project to a phoenix -- a mythical creature said to rise again from its own ashes when it dies -- McCloud said the property would finally see new life when the YMCA opens in 2019.
"From out of the ashes of the Reynoldsburg Swim Club will arise the Reynoldsburg YMCA. It is indeed our phoenix," he said.
He thanked Reynoldsburg voters for approving a city income-tax hike in May.
Issue 11 raised the income tax from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent and is expected to generate an additional $6.5 million per year in revenue for the city.
The Reynoldsburg High School marching band played the national anthem and "God Bless America" at the ceremony and the VFW Post 9473 color guard presented the flag before the Pledge of Allegiance.
City service director Bill Sampson said the new YMCA community center would encompass about 52,000 square feet on 10 acres at the north end of Huber Park. It is expected to cost about $18.5 million.
The design of the center isn't finished, but it is expected to be a two-story facility with administrative offices, community rooms, a fitness center, full gymnasium, kids' club and aquatic facilities. The parking lot is expected to have about 300 spaces.
Sampson said the old swim club would be demolished in November.
Also on the chopping block is the bingo hall, still in operation across from the swim club. It is expected to be demolished by the first of the year.
Sampson said the community center would be built and owned by the city, but operated by the YMCA.
Stephen Ives, CEO of YMCA of Central Ohio, said his organization "believes in the power of inspired youth."
"We love that this is a community-led initiative," he said. "We live in a time (when) the ties that bind us are a bit frayed. But I promise you that we will be there and help make this community center become one of the most extraordinary partnerships in the region."
Councilman Mel Clemens said, "This is a good day to see.
"I've lived here some 67 years," he said. "I think this is a day my wife, Nancy, would have really appreciated. She was born and raised in Reynoldsburg."
Councilman Chris Long said the community center has been long awaited.
"We finally delivered a message to people they could understand," he said. "I'm excited. I grew up with the pool as well, so I'm looking forward to the city getting bigger and better."
Reynoldsburg school board President Joe Begeny said he expects everyone will benefit from the YMCA.
"It is a new beginning for Reynoldsburg," he said.
"This YMCA is going to be a huge opportunity for so many kids and families," Superintenent Melvin Brown said.
Residents Lisa Gomez and Vicki Johnson Perkins said they grew up in Reynoldsburg and their children attended Reynoldsburg schools.
"My kids were on the swim team," Gomez said. "I miss hanging out with the moms at the pool. I'm excited we will soon have a safe and supervised place for kids to go."
"It will be wonderful for the community to have a place to come together again," Perkins said.