NYAB contributes $250,000 in support of Watertown Family YMCA’s expansion and relocation

$20 Million Capital Improvement Project Will Result in a Newly Renovated Wellness and Aquatic Center While Maintaining the YMCA’s Historic Presence as a Downtown Focal Point

WATERTOWN, NY – New York Air Brake LLC (NYAB), a global manufacturer of innovative train control systems for the railroad industry, has awarded a grant totaling $250,000 to support a major capital improvement project for the Watertown Family YMCA.

The grant, being awarded in five $50,000 increments over a five-year span, will assist the center as part of a $20 million project to renovate and relocate the Y’s wellness and aquatic center into a significantly larger downtown facility. The project will result in a new Downtown YMCA Community and Aquatic Center, providing a significant increase in both capacity and programming while maintaining the center’s historic downtown location.

“New York Air Brake has been part of the Watertown community going back to 1890, while our local YMCA has been here since 1855,” said Ulisses Camilo, New York Air Brake president and CEO. “The impact that this organization has had over many generations on the local economy, area families, and the people of New York Air Brake is immeasurable. Now the YMCA is continuing its investment in our community by revitalizing and increasing its services, and we are honored and excited to be part of this momentous effort.”

Enthusiastic Support for a Cherished Institution 

New York Air Brake awarded its first $50,000 installment for the project in 2020, kicking off a project that has earned wide support throughout the community. Keith Perry, manager of field service for NYAB, project manager for the company’s Community Cares effort, and a longtime member of the Watertown Family YMCA, cited the significance of the expansion, which will result in a larger indoor facility for the community to enjoy year-round.

“There’s really no other agency or entity that provides as broad a scope of programming in support of families in our community,” Perry said.

He noted that NYAB was enthusiastic about supporting the project from its earliest stages, when the company became one of the first major contributors to the campaign.

“The YMCA approached NYAB as one of the premier manufacturing companies in the area to get a sense of how the community and the company would respond,” Perry said, explaining that the agency’s initial request for grant funding occurred even before the YMCA kicked off its campaign efforts. “When the proposal was presented, New York Air Brake leadership unanimously approved the $250,000 grant, recognizing that the YMCA is one of the most pivotal support entities in Jefferson County.”

Denise Young, chief executive officer of the Watertown Family YMCA, said the need for this capital improvement has been evident for some time, considering the current downtown facility’s aging infrastructure. The building includes a 104-year-old lap pool located on the second floor. The facility serves around 30,000 community members in the greater Watertown area and offers daily passes allowing non-members to use its facilities, something that is not universal to all YMCAs. The center also houses the only public indoor swimming pool available in the region.

“We have many unmet needs, but our board was committed to staying in the downtown footprint in Watertown to serve the community,” Young said. As such, she added, “This project has seen broad-based community support as one that will impact health and quality of life, as well as the local economy.” The new facility is also expected to be an amenity that helps keep the downtown area vibrant.

Fort Drum Connection

In the coming months, the YMCA plans to open its fundraising campaign to additional groups, officially launching its community funding effort in early 2022, followed by additional phases of outreach later in the year.

Another significant and early contributor to the capital improvement project has been the U.S. Department of Defense, which recently awarded the center an unprecedented $9.1 million in grant funding. The award is part of the Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Program from the agency and its first ever in support of community-based infrastructure, Young said. Part of the Department of Defense grant includes a community matching component that doubles NYAB’s $250,000 contribution.

The YMCA qualified for the funding thanks to its existing relationship with the residents of nearby Fort Drum – a U.S. army base in Jefferson County, the home of the 10th Mountain Division – and its partnership with the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency. Over the years, the facility has served Fort Drum residents, offering its amenities along with programming and services especially for military families.

A Focal Point for the Community

The YMCA’s capital improvement project is expected to significantly increase capacity and quality of services at the facility, beginning with its new location: The YMCA’s board of directors identified a large downtown building that has been vacant as the new home for the center.

Projected to be complete in 2023, the renovation will result in an 89,000-square-foot community and aquatic center located just an eighth of a mile away from the current facility, where it will continue to serve as a focal point in downtown Watertown.

“By revitalizing the vacant building, the Y is helping to keep the downtown city vibrant,” Perry said. “It’s also another reason the project is getting so much attention locally and why it’s such a great project for the area community.”

The new facility is expected to serve about 15,000 visitors monthly. It will offer a full range of programs and activities, including youth development and sports, swimming lessons, a wellness center, and activities for adults, families, senior citizens, and children. The facility will also be home to a new aquatic center housing a six-lane regulation-size swimming pool. Among the additional amenities of the center are a walking track, tennis and pickleball courts, exercise facilities, and kitchens.

Young pointed out that having the new pool will allow the facility to host practices for its 170-member swim team and to host swim meets, which was not possible at the existing pool. And parking at the new facility will hold as many as 350 spaces, compared to just a dozen at the existing facility. All services will move into the renovated building with the exception of the Y’s corporate offices.

As further support for the project, Perry noted that a large percentage of NYAB’s employees have been members of the center, which stands alone in the community for its expansive scope of family and community programming. And now, with its added capacity and amenities, that history will continue.

Perry said, “It’s very difficult to find an employee who has not been touched either directly or through others – families, children, parents – by the Watertown YMCA’s programming.”