FAYETTEVILLE: Sandhills YMCA to build center for injured vets - WRBL

Sandhills YMCA begins campaign to build Wounded Warrior Center

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The YMCA of the Sandhills' current indoor pool is one of only about three in Cumberland County. The YMCA of the Sandhills' current indoor pool is one of only about three in Cumberland County.

The YMCA of the Sandhills is working to raise money for a proposed facility that would focus on honoring and helping injured service members and veterans.

The Wounded Warrior Center would combine a museum-type area with a fitness and aquatic center. Three pools would be included in the center -- one for therapy, a competition style pool for lane swimming and a recreational pool for family fun.

The idea is to create enough space for wounded warriors and older adults to have specialized areas, while also giving swim teams a place to practice and hold meets, in addition to a water playground of sorts.

YMCA CEO Rick Houp said the Y's current indoor pool is one of only about three in Cumberland County. So the pool is often overcrowded, making it hard for everyone to use it when and how they would like.

Houp said the new indoor aquatic center in the Wounded Warrior Center would help meet demand from the community. The dedicated therapy pool would also accommodate many wounded warriors in the area, and it may even attract veterans looking for a place to live while in rehab -- veterans would be given free access to the facility and free child care during rehab.

"We're taking away every excuse to make sure an individual has an opportunity to rehab successfully," Houp said.

The center would also include fitness equipment such as treadmills, stationary bikes, weight machines and free weights. Much of the equipment would be adaptable for use by wounded warriors or others. The adaptable equipment would be mixed in with all the other equipment so that wounded warriors will work out beside other members of the community.

"Rather than being isolated by their injury or their wound, they're integrated into this wounded warrior center," Houp said.

A major way wounded warriors would be integrated into the center is through the educational area. It will use plaques, videos and a small theater to tell the story of 9/11, the wars that followed and the wounded warriors that resulted. Houp said the educational element will help create an overall center that is dedicated to telling the wounded warrior story and helping warriors advance that story.

"If not in Fayetteville, [then] Cumberland County. What community better understands the sacrifices of these men and women?" Houp asked.

Funding could include taxpayer dollars. Houp estimates the center will cost $20 to 25 million, depending on land costs. A consulting company will ultimately suggest the location.

Although Houp has not made an official request at this point, he said he will ask Fayetteville, Cumberland County and Fort Bragg for help with funding the center. He said he will ask the city and county for $3 million each over a 2-year period. He also hopes to secure some state and federal funding along with grants because the center could be the only center of its kind in the country.

City and county leaders who spoke to WNCN on Monday said they like the idea. Some said they think the center could help fill a void in recreation in the Fayetteville area. However, they all said local government budgets are tight. So there will be discussion on how much, if any, government funding will go toward the center.

Houp said he is also reaching out to local civic groups and private donors to build the center.

"We're looking for anyone, the city, the county, Fort Bragg, private investors if you will, to say okay we want to build this facility and partner with you," Houp said. "So the concept is: if everyone takes a small piece of the pie this can be accomplished."

A video about the YMCA's Wounded Warrior Center can be viewed here: http://ymcaofthesandhills.org/cms-view-page.php?page=wwc-initiative

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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