“I think this is awesome. I knew it was going to be a really big building, but I did not know it was going to be this big and this much fun." So said Ben Gault, 11, of Westport, who was taking a first turn on the new basketball court following the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Westport Weston Family Y on Aug. 28.
"I didn't like it, I loved it," said Erik Melingonis’ young daughter, after playing in the gym and Fort Mack, part of the new Y’s Kids’ Club playscape and child watch area.
Out of the mouth of babes …
Nearly 500 Y leaders, members and supporters gathered together on a beautiful summer evening outside the front entrance to the Bedford Family Center
, as the 54,000 sq. ft. Y facility will be known, to celebrate the historic occasion. To view a photo gallery of the evening, please click here
Also on hand were a number of local reporters and photographers. Allow us to share some highlights of their coverage…
From Jarret Liotta of the Westport News', “Westport Y cuts ribbon for new home, unwraps a dream
What began as a dream is now a brick-and-mortar reality.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday evening at the new Westport Weston Family Y -- now to be known as the Bedford Family Center -- gave hundreds of people a chance to spend time in the new $38.5 million complex and reflect on the sometimes-bumpy journey that got them there.
The 54,000-square-foot building, constructed on the Family Y's 32-acre Mahackeno camp property along the Saugatuck River, replaces the Y's longtime home downtown at 59 Post Road East. The facilities, however, are not yet open for use by the Y's 5,500 members because of unfinished construction work and needed town approval of the waste water system….
The plan for the new Y was first approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2008, but several lawsuits tied up the project until the final challenge was dismissed in 2011. Construction on the complex began in 2013, and officials now hope to have final details complete by sometime in September although no date has been publicly announced.
"We will open our new building at Mahackeno for use by our members as soon as all necessary town and state conditions are met and approvals are received," Reeves said in a recent statement. "We will announce that specific opening date as soon as possible."
From Dan Woog’s 06880 blog
A video tribute
featuring Allen Raymond was the emotional highlight of yesterday evening’s Westport Y ribbon-cutting ceremony. But there were many other memorable moments too, at the new Mahackeno facility.
The spacious new parking lot was filled. Y members, staffers, volunteers and friends gathered to celebrate the move from the 90-year-old downtown facility, to the one off Wilton Road.
Longtime benefactors were honored at a pre-dedication reception inside. The Gault, Mitchell and Tauck families headed the list.
Then the group assembled outside the west-facing front entrance. Replicating the work of his predecessor 91 years ago, Reverend Jeffrey Rider of Greens Farms Congregational Church delivered a prayer that invoked the first chapter of the Bible: Rather than dwell alone, mankind should be part of a community.
From James Lomuscio of Westportnow.com
The spirit of the late Allen Raymond was present in the hearts of many—as well as on the huge, outdoor video screen—during tonight’s ribbon cutting for the new Westport Weston Family Y.
Raymond, a.k.a. Mr. Westport—and who was such a devoted Y proponent the road leading to the new facility is named after him—told the approximate 400 guests in a video recorded before his death May 1 at age 91 that he probably would not live to see this day. (See video here
“This crazy kid at the age of 91 had hoped to be the first to go down the great slide into the pool at this magnificent new Y,” Raymond said. “But that didn’t work out.
“However, let no one doubt that I am here rejoicing and cheering with all of you today, and when you see that splash in the pool when no one’s around, you’ll know that I am finally reveling in Westport’s jewel.”
Hearing that, Renee Van Heerden of Westport, who lives nearby on River Lane, began to sob.
“Watching Allen Raymond, someone who was so dedicated and couldn’t be here for the opening, it brought me to tears, and I didn’t expect that,” she said later.
More sweet than bitter sweet, however, the ribbon cutting at the Y’s Mahackeno campus off Exit 41 of the Merritt Parkway capped more than a decade of planning, fundraising, opposition, court battles, state and town approvals.
Still, after a decade of uphill climbs, proponents were bullish, feeling home free in their new home.
“On behalf of the Town of Westport, and as its first selectman, it is my distinct honor and privilege to welcome all of you to the newest crown jewel of Westport,” said First Selectman Jim Marpe, a former chair of the Y board of trustees and member before resigning upon taking office last November.
“After a long, arduous and at times contentious journey, this magnificent facility is about to be opened to the benefit of many individuals, family and community groups that partake in the myriad of programs offered by the Westport Weston Family Y.”
Community seemed to be the operative word of the evening. Invoking scripture, the Rev. Jeffrey Rider of the Green’s Farms Congregational Church said the new building “calls us to community ...not to be alone.”
Standing in front of the Vince and Linda McMahon Family Gymnasium, was Linda McMahon, the former U.S. Senate candidate and WWE owner whose family foundation donated $1 million to the new Y. She reiterated the theme of community.
“It’s nice to be able to do nice things,” McMahon said of her donation (shown here with Y Trustee Chair Pete Wolgast). “This is about the building of community.”
The Family Y building had originally been envisioned at about twice the size, but the Y had to scale it back because the nonprofit was unable to raise the required funding.
The architect’s plans provide for future expansion.
To view of photo gallery of photos from the evening by Dave Matlow of westportnow.com, please click here
From the Westport Weston Family Y’s homepage
Following our Dedication and Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 28, the new Westport Weston Family Y at 14 Allen Raymond Lane will offer self-guided preview tours prior to its official opening later in September.
"With our punch-list shrinking by the day and key safety and security measures now in place, we've received permission from town authorities to switch from our current guided tours to being able to schedule a series of Open Houses for current and prospective members," says Family Y CEO Rob Reeves.
The dates and times are:
Saturday, Aug. 30, 9 am - 12 pm
Tuesday, Sept. 2, 12-2 pm, 5-7 pm
Wednesday, Sept. 3, 12-2 pm, 5-7 pm
Thursday, Sept. 4, 12-2 pm, 5-7 pm
Friday, Sept. 5, 12-2 pm, 5-7 pm
Saturday, Sept. 6, 9 am - 12 pm
Monday, Sept. 8, 12-2 pm, 5-7 pm
Tuesday, Sept. 9, 12-2 pm, 5-7 pm
Wednesday, Sept. 10, 12-2 pm, 5-7 pm
Thursday, Sept. 11, 12-2 pm, 5-7 pm
Friday, Sept. 12, 12-2 pm, 5-7 pm
Saturday, Sept. 13, 9 am - 12 pm
This schedule is also available online
DIRECTIONS: Situated at the Y's 32-acre Mahackeno campus, the new facility is at Route 33 and the Exit 41 Northbound interchange of the Merritt Parkway. Allen Raymond Lane is reached via the short connector road leading from Route 33 (Wilton Road) toward the northbound on-off ramp. Stay in the right lane and proceed past the Red Barn restaurant toward the Y's parking lot.
Y staff will be on hand to greet visitors at the Welcome Center, introduce them to the facility and answer any questions they may have about the Y's Fall programs. They'll also be able to process membership applications, including a special offer to waive the Join Fee for new members who join before September 30, 2014.