Chch YMCA's $6m rebuild plan

Plans for swimming pool, theatre and art venue

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 07:42 30/06/2014
YMCA rebuild plan
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ARTIST'S IMPRESSION: The planned $6m swimming pool and squash facility.

Christchurch YMCA
Joseph Johnson/Fairfax NZ
FUNDRAISING: YMCA chief executive Josie Ogden Schroeder says the trust is negotiating with a partner.

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Christchurch's YMCA is planning to build a $6 million swimming pool and squash facility, a theatre and an art venue on its Hereford St site.

The charitable trust is raising money and negotiating with an unnamed partner to fund the pool project.

Chief executive officer Josie Ogden Schroeder said the construction of the 25-metre pool, a smaller pool, and six squash courts could start as early as the end of the year if the money was raised.

The complex would replace the YMCA's old brick building that had to be demolished post-quake.

Schroeder said the pool would be a good replacement for the Centennial Pool and complement the planned anchor project, the Metro facility, in a city "starved of pools".

The YMCA had no intention of competing with other commercial "Learn To Swim" providers in the city. The aim was to provide high quality but affordable swimming lessons, with scholarships for people who might not be able to afford it.

"The last thing the YMCA wants to do is provide programmes which have a negative impact on the community, including the business community," she said.

The existing squash courts and climbing walls would also get a "major refurbishment".

The YMCA was also working towards raising capital to build a 200-seat community theatre that would be "highly affordable" for amateur theatre and dance. There would also be a space devoted to community art projects, Schroeder said.

"There is a real lack of space for grassroots theatre, dance and art in Christchurch," she said.

CLIMBING WALL TO MAKE WAY FOR ART

To make room for the street art venue, the YMCA plans to close its Hereford St climbing wall in November.

Chief executive officer Josie Ogden Schroeder said the "premium space" had never made money as a climbing wall and could serve the community best as an art venue.

"Climbing is important for the YMCA, however, it doesn't make sense to try and sustain two large climbing walls."

The charitable trust bought The Roxx Climbing Centre near the skate park at the end of last year. It will be the only climbing facility in the city in November, and climbers are worried this will not be enough.

Kate McIntyre goes climbing at the YMCA on Wednesdays "because it's about half the price compared to the Roxx on that night".

She said she hoped entry prices at the Roxx would remain affordable. She was also worried about having only one climbing wall in the city.

"The Roxx last winter was incredibly busy and if there was only one indoor climbing place in Christchurch it would be really packed."

Schroeder said the YMCA would not create barriers to participation. The primary goal was to provide the best service at the best price, not to make money.

"While the Roxx will make a surplus, that surplus will be used for our community programmes and to subsidise people who might not be able to afford access to the facility."

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Management had surveyed 600 climbers about their needs and would use the data to maximise climbing time. This could mean opening the Roxx earlier in the morning, for example.

"There's going to be more pressure on Roxx but I think we can work it out," Schroeder said.

A group of climbers were keen to create a small bouldering facility, she said. "We would certainly try to help them. We are not trying to monopolise the market, but it is difficult to make a buck from it [climbing]."

- The Press

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