Peconic Y may have a rival at Suffolk Community

COURTESY PHOTO | A new pool is coming to Suffolk Community College's East End campus, like the pool at Brentwood's Grant Campus.

While the Peconic YMCA appears to have finally found a location for its long-planned East End facility, complete with an Olympic-sized indoor pool, the group may also have found some competition.

Suffolk County Community College’s plan to build a fitness center at its Eastern Campus in Northampton, complete with an indoor pool, took a step forward recently, when the county Legislature voted to include the $17.75 million for the project in the county’s capital budget.

The proposed gymnasium and health/fitness center would include an indoor pool, a strength training room, an aerobic room, a gymnasium, classroom space, office space, locker rooms and a lobby, according to the county.

Fritz Trinklein, strategic planning director for YMCA of Long Island, wasn’t aware of the county’s plans for the Eastern Campus when contacted by The News-Review.

“That’s interesting,” he said.

“From the Y’s point of view, we have very sufficient demographic reach in eastern EPCAL, and the college proposal won’t have any significant impact on our plans,” he said. “But I am curious about the whole financial dynamic and how this is going to be funded, both from a construction point of view and an operational point of view. Generally, when you have these publicly funded activities, it’s expensive.

“The East Hampton facility operated on public money and was turned over to the Y about 10 years ago. It was a financial drain on the community before that,” he added.

The only indoor pool on the East End is at the YMCA’s East Hampton facility.

The college facility’s main purpose would be to provide space for physical education classes, which are a graduation requirement, though no space is currently available at the Eastern Campus, said county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk).

But the facility will also be made available to community members, who would pay a membership fee to use it, he said.

“The Eastern Campus is actually a pretty good location,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “It can draw from a lot of places.”

Suffolk Community College already opens its pool and health club to the public at its Brentwood Campus, but the facility is only available to the public when not in use by the students.

“The primary mission is to supplement the educational programs at the college, the secondary mission is to supplement the operating expenses so they can keep tuition low,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

The capital budget is a planning document, he said. Inclusion in the capital budget doesn’t guarantee the facility will be built, although it can’t be built without first being in the capital budget, he said.

An East End pool is something that’s been talked about for years, including by Peconic YMCA, but has yet to materialize, Mr. Schneiderman said.

Half the funding for the college facility comes from a state grant, he said. The pool project has been in the works for several years, but was removed from the capital budget by both former county executive Steve Levy and County Executive Steve Bellone. In both cases, it was restored by the Legislature.

Peconic YMCA, meanwhile, has been searching for a site for more than 10 years, ultimately rejecting many possible locations because of public opposition or because the properties were tied in with private development proposals that didn’t happen.

Peconic YMCA currently plans to build its facility on land owned by Riverhead Town at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. The Town Board will hold a public hearing July 17 on its proposal to give the land to Peconic YMCA.

The annual fees for use of the facility at the college’s Brentwood campus are $250 for adult county residents, $200 for child residents, $60 for SCC students with nine or more credits, and $100 a year for SCC students with fewer than nine credits.

By contrast, the fees for annual adult memberships at existing YMCAs on Long Island, according to the Y website, range from $470 in East Hampton to $490 in Patchogue and Holtsville, $495 in Bay Shore, $644 in Huntington and $630 in Glen Cove.

Peconic YMCA’s proposed facility would be about 40,000 square feet and is estimated to cost about $8 million, most of which is being raised through private donations. It would include a pool, a strength training center, multi-purpose rooms, locker rooms and a community center.

Mr. Trinklein said about $1.5 million remains to be raised, and he thinks more donations will come once the town conveys the land to the YMCA.

Mr. Trinklein said the college facility could draw some people from the South Fork who might otherwise go to the EPCAL YMCA.

He also said he was surprised state and county governments would help fund a $17 million facility in tough economic times.

“If somebody else would build a pool that the college could use, we probably wouldn’t build one,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “But we’ve heard talk for a long time about people building an indoor pool on the East End and it still hasn’t happened.”

The planning and design for the college facility is already bonded for, he said.

“I think there’s a great likelihood it will happen and I think it is going to be good for the college and good for the community,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I also think it will be good for the East End economy. They are trying to make the campus more like a conference center, and they see the pool as a big component of their plan.”

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