(If Only in Sand):
Facility stars at Castles
in the Sand event
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – Though it was years in the planning, the new Westport/Weston YMCA was built in an afternoon. Unfortunately, it may not survive the next high tide.
Erected in sand, a reproduction of the facility was one of 43 structures that came to life during the 10th Anniversary Castles in the Sand build-a-thon held at Compo Beach Saturday afternoon May 14. Large sand lots were purchased for $100 while extra-large lots went for $300, with all money raised donated to Homes with Hope, a Westport-based non-profit that helps the homeless or those at risk of being homeless. Hundreds of people turned out for the event, to build, browse, get their face painted, enjoy a gymnastics demo or purchase a Live Strong bracelet or t-shirt. Visitors could also vote on their favorite sand structure; winners were recognized at the conclusion of the event.
YMCA Communications Director Scott Smith spoke about the miniature new home they had created. “Our sandcastle is a representation of the proposed Westport/Weston Family Y that we will build at Mahackeno to continue to fulfill our mission as a center of community life and continue helping civic partners like Homes with Hope,” he said. “All of us are building what matters today and that’s not just sandcastles but community spirit and engagement and fostering sense of social responsibility in a fun way.”
Herve Hamon, a member of the Y’s building committee and a previous board member, added, “What we tried to do here is build a replica of architect Robert A.M. Stern’s design. The proposed facility will be just about 100,000 square feet and will include a large pool, two gyms, a fitness area, childcare and children’s pool with slides for family time. In general, the building will be very eco-friendly with green features and elements.”
Smith provided an update on the status of the project. “We have all the approvals we need and have raised more than half of the money we need to build, through fundraising and the agreement to sell the current building,” he said. “Just in the last few weeks, the building committee has gathered momentum in terms of starting the final phase. If all goes as planned, we would break ground in 2012 and complete the building in 2014.”
Smith said it’s been a long process but that the Y has overwhelming support from the community to finish the project. “People have been coming by our sand installation and saying, ‘We can’t wait,’ and ‘Wow, that’s what it’s going to look like,’” he said.
Admiring the Y sculpture, Westport resident Betty Tsang, a current Y member, said, “We would have loved to have kept the Y downtown, but that battle has passed. We’re excited for the new. We’ve been in and out of the various discussions. My son Tyler also did a project in school about the relocation, when it was still not quite happening. He was in 5th grade at the time and is now in 8th. It’s been some time coming. After a while, you just hope it happens. And now it is happening.”
Bruce Hennemuth, on the board for Homes with Hope, eyeballed the Y sculpture as well. “Every year we do the Sand Castle effort,” he said. “It’s a fun day and gives us the opportunity to advertise our mission to help the homeless in the area. The Y representation is wonderful. What a great effort by the supporters of the Y.”
He wasn’t the only one to think so. The Y sculpture received a golden shovel award for Most Ambitious structure.