New future for old YMCA

Mid-City CAN members at the old Copley Family YMCA, which will be renovated and reopened as a community center.

Mid-City CAN members at the old Copley Family YMCA, which will be renovated and reopened as a community center.

The old Copley Family YMCA, once an important part of City Heights, sits run-down and empty. But a $3.1 million grant will pay to repair and renovate the site, which will become the new Park De La Cruz Recreation Center.

“This building belongs to the public and we want you and all of our neighbors, the community, to be able to use it again,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer said during an Aug. 3 news conference announcing the latest plans for the site.

San Diego secured the grant from the state Department of Housing and Community Development. The new funds are in addition to the nearly $4.5 million awarded to the city last year to build a pair of skateparks, one at Park De La Cruz next to the old YMCA, and the other at Linda Vista Community Park.

Mid-City CAN advocated for the City Heights skatepark, and representatives of the group were on hand for the Aug. 3 announcement.

“Since I took office in District 9, I’ve had visits from kids with skateboards under their arms saying, ‘It’s about time.’ Now, not only will young people have a place to skate that’s safe and fun, we’ll have improvements here at the YMCA with a history of service to the community,” said Councilwoman Marti Emerald, whose district includes City Heights. “It’s been a long time coming, but the day has arrived.”

Construction is already underway, and parts of the renovated YMCA will be open later this fall. The full project, though, isn’t expected to be complete for an additional two years.

A lot of work needs to be done, including safely removing asbestos.

“Hopefully with this $3.1 million that we get, it helps create more youth opportunities and ways to help out our youth and improve our community,” said Erick Hernandez, Mid-City CAN Youth Council member.

City Park and Recreation Director Herman Parker said that once the construction is complete, the gymnasium will reopen for public use, focusing on recreational opportunities for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

“What we’re really learning today is that when you participate and you engage, then things like this happen,” Mid-City CAN Executive Director Diana Ross said.