Wyatt Simmons is only 6 months old, but his mom hopes that he will one day play sports on fields in his own neighborhood.
"One of the reasons we moved out here was for the quality of life we wanted," said Sophie Simmons of Cane Bay Plantation. "We wanted to live in a place where things were close by. We've got schools and a grocery store now and more stuff on the way, but I'm really looking forward to the recreational facilities."
Those might finally be on the horizon too, said officials with the YMCA of Greater Charleston, which was formed two years ago with the merger of the Cannon Street and Berkeley County organizations.
In fall 2012, Cane Bay developer Gramling Brothers Real Estate and Development Co. gave 68 acres to the newly formed YMCA of Greater Charleston to build a $20 million sports complex. It was the largest gift of land ever donated to a non-camp YMCA in the United States, local YMCA officials said.
The project includes a gymnasium with a stage; a wellness center; multi-purpose rooms; exercise locker rooms; and an indoor swimming pool. The building will be surrounded by tennis courts, ball fields, multi-purpose fields, an area for a water park and parking.
It will be built in the center of Cane Bay, a 4,500-acre community off of U.S. Highway 176 near Carnes Crossroads in Berkeley County that will have about 10,000 homes.
YMCA officials initially hoped to break ground on the facility this spring, but like many projects, it has taken longer than expected to get financing in order.
They now hope to break ground later this year, with completion by early 2016 or possibly earlier.
"The delay was probably causing some people frustration," said Jeff Burton, past chairman of the YMCA board and current chairman of the strategic planning committee. "So we've gone out now and sort of begged for everybody's pardon on the lack of communication and the delays, and once we explain that to them everybody gets it and understands."
Part of the financing for the project is coming from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans, a rigorous process that slowed down progress but was worth it, Burton said. Some of the funding will also come through a community campaign to bring in $4 million or $5 million, which will kick off soon, Burton said.
"That enables us to get this done a heck of a lot quicker than if we had to do it the old-fashioned way and raise it brick by brick," he said.
The USDA has approved financing at the state and federal level for two phases of the project, which would complete the building and the fields, Burton said.
"My goal now is to focus almost entirely on getting this YMCA built," he said. "I really want to be laser-focused on this project, especially now that we are all systems go."
The YMCA currently operates a few youth sports programs in the area on borrowed fields, said Paul Stoney, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Charleston.
"We anticipate having some programming there by the summer in addition to the sports," he said.
The YMCA is working to finalize an agreement with the Berkeley County School District to use facilities at the Cane Bay schools.
"Though no memorandum of understanding for facility use has yet been finalized, Berkeley County School District is working with the YMCA to explore partnership opportunities for the Cane Bay area, including possible use of district facilities for YMCA programming," said school district spokeswoman Susan Haire.
Programming will be community-driven, said Fred Brown, program director for the YMCA.
"We've got a pretty good amount of participation already through Cane Bay," Brown said. "If we can find sites to launch the programs, we'll add dance programs, after-school programs, summer camp, Y Guides and Princesses. ... There are a lot of other possibilities, programming wise, for the space."
Officials will seek residents' input via surveys and meetings, Stoney said. The fundraising campaign also will kick off soon.
"We've got skin in the game and the community there has to have skin in the game," Burton said. "Frankly, the board is going to feel more comfortable if we roll up our sleeves and we all chip in. We all will."
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
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