Cleveland residents looking forward to transformation of former YMCA building
By Sarah Campbell
CLEVELAND - When Cindy Childs' children were growing up they didn't have to travel far to play soccer or baseball because the West Rowan YMCA was right down the street.
Since the facility shut down five years ago, the Cleveland resident has seen how hard it is for parents to find athletic leagues that don't require a lot of driving.
"It's tough for families to have to travel all the way to Salisbury to the Hurley YMCA," she said.
But Cornerstone Church Pastor Bill Godair is hoping to change that soon.
The church recently purchased the nearly 46,000- square-foot facility at 603 E. Main St. for $25,000 with plans to reopen it as a sports, education and cultural center to serve the community.
"I'm excited somebody has taken an interest in that building," Childs said.
Godair hopes to have the gym open within the next 60 days, but first it needs some work. Four church members volunteered their time mending the roof, the gym's most pressing issue, Thursday.
"We've got some roof problems and we're trying to get that fixed before the weather turns," Godair said. "We've got people out there almost every day."
About 150 volunteers are expected to show up for a work day being held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Saturday.
"We're going to start cleaning that place up on the outside, weather permitting. If not we'll be inside," Godair said.
Godair said there will be lots of raking, cleaning, painting and landscaping during the work day. They'll also be taking down the fence that's in front of the gym.
"Right now, that fence makes it looks like a prison, and we want to make it more inviting."
During the work day, Godair and other church members will also be going door-to-door, giving nearby residents fruit baskets and finding out what types of activities they would like to see offered at the facility.
"We just want to introduce ourselves and let them know it's really their building," he said. "We're just here to be a blessing for this community."
Godair said he's looking forward to getting feedback from the community about possible uses for the former YMCA building.
Childs said she hopes it will become a place where children can go after school and during the summer.
"They need somewhere to go that isn't going to cost a fortune, because there's not much to do in Cleveland," she said.
Although soccer and baseball leagues are at the top of her list, Childs would also like to see dance and cheerleading classes offered, as well as clubs that focus on art and music.
"We need something to work our children's bodies and minds," she said. "There is so much they can offer down there and we have a lot of talented people in Cleveland who could get together and volunteer to work with the children to help keep them out of trouble."
Hazel Britt, who lives in the western part of the county, said she'd like to take some computer classes at the facility.
"I don't live in Cleveland, but I live close and it would be nice to learn some basics," she said. "I don't have the money to spend on classes at the community college, but I'm willing to learn."
Faye Morris, another western Rowan resident, agrees computer classes for both adults and students would be a plus.
She said she'd also like to see some tutoring take place in the building where she attended when it was R.A. Clement School, which served as a colored school before integration began there in 1968.
"That school is a landmark. I would hate to see it go down," she said. "The best thing about the church buying it is that it's going to be useful to the community. I'm so glad it won't just be sitting there."
Morris suggested the church rent out rooms within the large facility to local groups that might need a place to meet or hold events.
Cleveland resident Richard Taylor, who teaches cabinetmaking at West Rowan High, said he's excited to see what will happen with the building.
"It can't be anything but a positive deal, taking a building that's not being used and utilizing it for positive things," he said. "It's great anytime you can keep kids involved, keep them busy.
"It will be good to constantly have people at that building instead of having it sit empty."
Town Commissioner Travis Summitt said he's ready and willing to share his ideas with Godair.
"I haven't had any conversations with them yet, but I do look forward to that," he said. "It really sounds like they want to get really involved with the community and that's something that's greatly needed."
Summitt said he'd like to see a library in the building.
"I know the western end has been in need of a library forever and I don't think that's going to happen on a county level," he said. "That's one idea that I have and I don't know if they would be willing to do that, but I would love to have a conversation about it."
The church plans to invest a total of $100,000 on upkeep and renovations within the first year of ownership.
But the site is currently zoned as single-family residential, which could create some hurdles.
Permitted use for such a building is for churches and related uses, day-care homes and parks or playgrounds operated on a nonprofit basis for recreation purposes.
Godair said he had not planned to open a church at the building, but his hand may be forced because of the zoning ordinance.
Cleveland Mayor John Steele said he's pleased that the building will be used, but he wants to make sure the proper procedures are followed.
"I think everybody in town is going to be happy about it," he said. "I just hope it's in decent repair because it stood empty for many years."
Godair said people can follow progress of the facility at www.facebook.com/TheHubWest.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.