Yates Community Center fieldhouse plans expanded

The Chronicle Express

PENN YAN — The Yates County Community Center recently received a $25,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund for Youth Sports toward the construction of its planned capital project, which includes a new indoor turf field house as well as several other improvements. The grant was the latest step in YCC's revamped expansion plans coming to fruition.

The interior of the originally proposed YCC fieldhouse. The new plans will be almost four times larger using a wooden structure instead of the steel structure that had originally been designed.

Yates Community Center's President, Dr. Leigh Berry, applied for the Ralph Wilson grant through the Rochester Area Community Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers resources for groups to find funding through grants and scholarships to improve the region.

Berry had applied for funding from the Ralph Wilson Legacy Fund in the past for programming in the community center, but had been denied. Seeing a chance to perhaps go in another direction, Berry applied for funding to help the center's capital project and was approved. The Ralph Wilson Fund awarded over $200K this year to a variety of projects and organizations in the region, with YCC's $25,000 grant being the largest overall for this cycle.

The Ralph Wilson Legacy Fund honors Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., the late founder and owner of the Buffalo Bills. Since its inception five years ago, the fund has awarded nearly $1.5 million in youth sports programs in the state. 

YCC's plans for the new building and amenities were announced last year and initially included a 9,000 sq. foot steel structure with an indoor turf field as well as a hard-surface flooring overlay to accommodate events, a basketball/pickleball court, an outdoor pavilion and an outdoor playground. The project was originally projected at $2.2 million, with funding for the outdoor facilities already secured when Berry addressed the Penn Yan school board in 2021.

YCC's initial plans changed when community member Brian Cunningham read of the project and began formulating ideas for a more expansive structure to provide for a wider array of events and activities. Cunningham, who has a background in both construction and building, saw the potential to get more value out of the project by using a wooden structure. Coming up with his own set of plans and budget, Cunningham pitched his ideas to YCC's board of directors, who agreed that a larger structure would be advantageous and revised the plans accordingly. 

Brian Cunningham

Cunningham's plan expanded the proposed structure from 9,000 sq. ft. to 35,000 sq. ft., using a wooden structure instead of the steel structure that had originally been designed. Putting together quotes from local contractors and suppliers, Cunningham's budget came in at around $4 million, which, with his proposed wooden structure, would be much less than using steel in a similar structure.

"What we're doing for $4 million would typically cost between nine and $10 million in a steel structure," said Cunningham.

Brian Cunningham's plan will expand the proposed structure from this 9,000 sq. ft. plan to 35,000 sq. feet.

Cunningham said he was motivated to help by a desire to see the Penn Yan community grow and thrive. Using local builders and local suppliers, Cunningham aimed both to save on the project's overall cost and keep the project's monies inside Yates County.

"It's not just the sports side of things, but also the events that could go on there," said Cunningham. "The main thing is, this is going to be built locally [and] the money is going to stay in Yates County... that's the key to this whole project."

The project has been approved for a $500,000 matching contribution grant from the N.Y. State Parks and Recreation Department. The project also received a $50,000 "jumpstart" pledge from Greenidge Generation LLC and $100,000 from a community building fund. Other major donors include Lyons National Bank, the Penn Yan Moose Club, the estate of Don & Corry Stork, The Once Again Shoppe, Community Bank, and Ukrainian Federal Credit Union, which awarded YCC its Federal Home Loan Bank of New York Covid-19 financial relief grant.

Berry and Cunningham reported that the new playground should be completed by mid-September of this year and they hope to break ground on the new structure in March of 2023. 

YCC has started a capital campaign and those interested in donating can go to their website at YatesCC.org for more information on the project and how to donate.