Officials break ground on Family Y, exhibition hall

Marshall Family Y branch director Rusty Hall (from left), Commission Chairman Ron Cross, Ron and Elaine Carter, Family Y President and CEO Danny McConnell, Chairwoman of Metro Board of Directors Betty Meehan, commissioner Bill Morris and County Administrator Scott Johnson participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new exhibition hall and fitness center.

A smattering of rain failed to dampen the enthusiasm of Columbia County officials and Family Y executives Wednesday at the groundbreaking for a new exhibition hall and fitness center in Grovetown.

“It is a beautiful day,” Family Y CEO and President Danny McConnell said at the ceremony held on the build site in the Gateway shopping center on Horizon South Parkway near Interstate 20.

With site work nearly complete, construction should start this month on the 47,000-square-foot exhibition hall, which McConnell said might be ready to open in January.

County officials awarded last month a $7.3 million bid to construct the facility to Augusta-based McKnight Construction Co.

“We’re excited about the possibilities this will bring to this side of the county,” said County Administrator Scott Johnson of the exhibition hall.

“This will be a focal point in Columbia County for years and years,” commission Chairman Ron Cross added.

Last year, Family Y signed a five-year lease worth $1.3 million to rent 16,500 square feet of the facility for use as a fitness center similar to the Y location on North Belair Road in Evans.

McConnell said the agreement gives The Family Y an immediate presence in the Grovetown area while executives work on more plans.

In the next seven to 10 years, McConnell said he hopes to open a Family Y branch similar to the one on Wheeler Road. Even sooner, he hopes to open a water park and ballfields at the more than 18-acre site owned by the organization next to the exhibition hall.

“We’re wanting to start a fundraising campaign in the fall for a future water park and ballfields,” McConnell said following the groundbreaking. “We’d like to have those up and running by summer 2014.”

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