YMCA to sell West Rowan facility to Cornerstone Church
By Sarah Campbell
CLEVELAND - Cornerstone Church Pastor Bill Godair plans to open up the gymnasium at the former West Rowan YMCA within the next 60 days, just in time for winter.
"When it gets cold, these kids have nowhere to play," he said.
The kids he's referring to are those who live in the western part of the county, which has been without a YMCA since the branch shut down in June 2007.
The nearly 46,000-square-foot facility has been vacant for more than five years.
But by this time next year it will likely be buzzing with activity.
Cornerstone is set to purchase the property at 603 E. Main St. for $25,000.
Godair said the church plans to invest $100,000 on upkeep and renovations within the next year.
"It just needs a lot of TLC because it's just been sitting there for five years," he said.
Jamie Morgan, CEO of the YMCA of Rowan County, said the board of directors made the decision to sell to Cornerstone on Monday afternoon.
"We are really just thrilled that it's going to be used to benefit the community," he said.
Morgan said the board has been committed to finding the right person to occupy the space.
"We feel a strong obligation to the town of Cleveland and the west Rowan community and we wanted to make sure that whoever went in there was going to be a good community member and good for the community," he said.
Godair said he plans to meet with Mayor John Steele and the town commissioners soon to gather feedback about what kind of services the community needs.
Then, he'll invite community members to a meeting to hear what they have to say.
"We need them to tell us what they need," he said. "We don't really know what the needs of the community are, but we have made the commitment that we will do everything in our power to address those needs."
Godair said that could mean starting basketball, volleyball and softball leagues, offering tutoring, creating before and after school programs or providing space for computer classes.
"Everywhere I look on that property, I see potential," he said. "The purpose of us buying it is not for us to use, but to give back to that community," he said.
Mike Wright, president of the YMCA's board of directors, said he's been impressed by Godair's vision for the facility.
"One of the things that just blew us away was that they want to plant a garden and treat it as a co-op to provide food for people out there," he said.
Godair said back in 1948 the front building housed the Cleveland Colored Junior High School.
"I'm a visionary at heart, so I would love to see a room turned into a museum that would go back and honor those classes," he said.
The property will not bear the Cornerstone name, Godair said.
"We are looking at a name that will be totally nonreligious," he said. "We want it to be more of a sports, education and culture center."
Rather than traveling to another country to build a church, Godair said Cornerstone members chose to seek a mission closer to home.
"We just decided that for the time being that our backyard is our mission field," he said. "Rowan County has been good to Bill Godair, Rowan County has been good to Cornerstone Church and this is just another way for us to give back."
Godair said the church still plans to build a new 60,000 square-foot event center for worship about four times larger than the existing facility.
"Our goal is to be in China Grove on that new 46 acres of land," he said. "This is a totally separate ministry."
Godair said he hopes the church can build partnerships to utilize the facility its fullest potential.
"I believe that the need and the vision for this property is greater than what Cornerstone can do by itself," he said. "We're going to need everyone to work with us because this piece of property is too viable to just be sitting there."
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.