The pool at the new YMCA Outdoor Learning and Education Center on Stetson Road in Auburn can be expanded in the future. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN – Two years after losing its indoor pool to flood damage, the YMCA is working on constructing a new outdoor pool at its property on Stetson Road.

Steve Wallace, the YMCA’s chief executive officer, said the board of directors made the decision this year to dip into the YMCA’s endowment funds to begin construction on the 24,000 gallon, 15- by 60-foot pool.

The decision came after the drowning of 13-year-old Rayan Issa at Range Pond State Park during a school outing in June 2018.

Wallace said that according to statistics from the USA Swimming Foundation, which tracks drownings in all 50 states, “for every community pool that is up and running and teaching kids to swim, it saves at least one life per year.”

“The board felt strongly that we needed to take the leap of faith and start working on this pool,” he said. “After that drowning, we knew we needed to get back into water safety and teaching children how to swim.”

In November 2017, an overnight flood filled the basement of the YMCA’s Turner Street building with 12 feet of water, causing severe damage to the boiler room, the electric room, and the nearly 100-year old pool.

The Y announced a couple of months later that it would not reopen its indoor pool, after repairs were estimated at $400,000.

Wallace said that since the flood, the YWCA in Lewiston has been allowing YMCA members to use its pool for free.

“The collaboration between us has been really great,” Wallace said. “Right now, our plan is to get our outdoor pool constructed, and ultimately, get a new aquatics and fitness center constructed later.”

Wallace said the outdoor pool, which will be at the YMCA’s Outdoor Learning and Education Center at 151 Stetson Road, will closely resemble the old indoor pool from the YMCA’s Turner Street facility.

“It’s 42 inches deep, so it’s a program pool where you can do lap swimming or swim lessons,” he added. “It’s also perfect for rehab, water walking, or doing triathlon training.”

Wallace said the pool construction is a “half-million-dollar project,” so “we plan to raise the funds through grants and sponsorships.”

The YMCA has owned the land at Stetson Road since 2011, and at one time, planned to move its entire operation there.

However, Wallace said that due to the topography of the land, it “wouldn’t make much sense for us to move there.”

In 2015, the YMCA decided to use the Stetson Road land to build its Outdoor Learning and Education Center and instead build an aquatics and fitness center with room for 5,000 members in Lewiston’s Bates Mill No. 5.

While Wallace said that construction on the new outdoor pool should be completed by spring of 2020, the aquatics and fitness center likely will not be complete until 2022.

Wallace said that the outdoor pool will join the Learning and Education Center’s 70- by 120-yard sports field, basketball court and Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible trail.

“We’re calling it the Lewiston-Auburn (version) of Central Park,” Wallace said. “Our vision is to create a camp vibe at that property. We eventually want to put a pellet gun range out there so we can teach responsibility in handling any dangerous weapons.”

He said the center will also feature a building with showers, changing spaces and training spaces.

“We’re hoping that the pool will touch all the pillars of the way a pool should be used: for learning, training and fun,” Wallace said.

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