HOPE MILLS – The Hope Mills Board of Commissioners on a 3-2 vote Monday night agreed to partner with the YMCA to build an aquatic center in town.

Commissioners Kenjuana McCray, Grilley Mitchell and Bryan Marley voted in favor; commissioners Joanne Scarola and Jerry Legge voted against.

Rick Houp, chief executive officer of the YMCA of the Sandhills, appeared before the board to discuss the proposed aquatic and wellness center that would be built in the heart of Hope Mills. The 49,000-plus-square-foot building would house a large pool that could be used for several purposes and the center would provide childcare for the community, he said.

Under the agreement, the YMCA must gather at least two local partners and pay for construction of the building. The YMCA asked Hope Mills to contribute up to $5,500 a month for 10 years. The money would not be available to the YMCA until fall of 2023. The money would only be requested if the YMCA is successful in raising $3 million and securing two other partners, Houp said.

During his presentation, Houp outlined several reasons the center would be good for the community.

“For children ages 2 to 14, the second leading cause of death is accidental drowning. Children’s leading cause of health risk is obesity. For the first time in history, children are less likely to live a longer lifespan than their parents due to their health condition,” Houp said.

“Through medications, senior adults are living longer but not necessarily living healthier. Many of them have a lower quality of life due to health complications. One of 10 people in the community of Hope Mills are 65 years of age or older.”

Houp said the community has the second largest population of wounded veterans in the country. Those numbers include combat wounded, those injured in jumps and those worn from the physical riggers of being in the military.

Local high school swim teams like Gray’s Creek, South View and Jack Britt practice on the other side of the county in outdoor pools that often lack heat, air conditioning or air circulation, Houp said. A YMCA in Hope Mills would provide them with adequate facilities to practice, he said.

Construction costs would be covered through fundraising by the YMCA, Houp said. The YMCA building would be attached to the building for Fit For Life, which is being built on Hope Mills Road. The goal is to bring an aquatic center there in about 18 months, Houp said.

Houp said the pool aligns with what residents identified in a 2018 study that asked them what area of recreation they would like to see in Hope Mills.

“At the top of the list, above all others, was the answer- an indoor aquatic center,” Houp said. “So due to the needs of the community and having said this is what they want, I’m asking you for consideration of a partnership.”

The aquatic center will house a large pool in a climate-controlled environment that will serve a number of uses, including rehilbation, gymnastics, recreation swimming and senior programs.

The center also would make affordable childcare available, Houp said. Once schools are out of session the new YMCA can accommodate up to 120 children who could be watched everyday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and assisted with school homework, he said.

Before the vote, some members of the Board of Commissioners asked questions of Houp. Legge asked how the project would benefit Hope Mills residents, saying the town would be paying money and residents would also pay a fee to join the YMCA.

Houp discussed the benefits of the center and the pool. “We’re not paying bonuses (or) funds to stockholders; the money stays in the community,” he said.

Jason Canady covers Hope Mills government for CityView TODAY.