Build it if you can

New Copley-Price Family YMCA unanimously approved by city council, but is funding available?

The San Diego city council this week unanimously approved the construction of a new Copley-Price Family YMCA in the Mid-City district bordered by Kensington, Talmadge, and City Heights. The 53,400 square foot facility is set to include an enclosed swimming pool, gymnasium, soccer field, teen center, and several classrooms.

The abandoned Pearson Ford lot at Fairmount Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard will house the new center. A construction date has not yet been set, but work is expected to begin sometime in the spring of 2013, with completion expected in mid-2014.

“This project will bring much-needed recreation options to the communities of Mid-City and return this prominent block to productive use,” said councilmember Todd Gloria, whose District 3 includes the selected site. “When it comes down to it, this will be a ‘world class’ facility that should prove to serve the area for decades to come.”

The YMCA anticipates that the facility will generate about 3,500 new memberships while serving around 18,000 total community members. It will replace the existing Copley Family YMCA, a much smaller facility built in 1956 at Landis and 40th Street.

The Helen K. and James S. Copley Foundation had committed $4.5 million of the expected $13 million construction cost as of last year. A recent report, however, suggests that the Foundation’s funds have dwindled in recent years, with only $5.4 million in assets at the end of 2011 and a handful of other obligations.

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That site really cries out for some kind of tax-generating business, rather than this use. But this is better than having it sitting empty. Will the Copley foundation come through? It appears doubtful that the funds are there to support the pledge. Perhaps the city leaders could approach another rich family to fill in the gap. I'd nominate Jim Sinegal, the founder and still CEO (as of the last time I checked) of Costco, the successor business to Price Company, operator of Price Clubs. Or has Jim transferred his loyalties to the Seattle area, where Costco is headquartered? If not him, there must be some mega-bucks local person who would pay to have his/her name added to the name of the new facility.

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