postheadericon Ithaca Y To Open New Playground

y-newlogo120The Ithaca Y wants a safe playground for 3 to 5 year old kids.  They don't have one now.  But thanks to crowd funding and corporate and private donations the new playground will be ready for play at the end of the day on August 15th.  That's in plenty of time for the grand opening on August 23rd.

"It's happening.  We're going to have a community fun fair and open house here," Ithaca Y CEO Frank Towner says.  "We're going to have the grand opening of the playground.  And we're going to have a recognition ceremony for our new branding.  Our new logo will go in front of the building."

Towner says his staff began thinking about adding an outdoor program space to the Y about a year ago when playground design firm Parkitects' Steve Lauzen approached him to talk.  They wanted traditional donations, but decided to try crowd-funding so that anyone could donate as little or as much as they wanted.

"In January I said we will protect our children with, at least, a fence on the north end of the building," Towner says.  "The play area is surrounded by two parking lots.  We brought marketing and communications together and started talking about an outdoor program space, and they ran with a crowd-tilt, or crowd-funding fundraising program.  That, in addition to corporate donations, was able to raise 21,800 dollars -- now it's up to 22,000 and some change.  That will put a 3-5 year old playground on the north end of the building.

Cargill is the lead corporate sponsor.  Towner says Dustin and Nicole Brown, Therm, Inc., NE Pediatrics, Security Mutual, and Richie and Pat Moran are also major donors.  He says the crowd-funding campaign was very successful as well, allowing many more people to be involved and helping to make it a community project.

"Many hands make light work," he adds.  "So rather than having four or five people donating large amounts, you and I can give 20, 30, 50 or 100 dollars."

y-playgroundplanPlayground plan by Parkitects

The Ludlowville-based firm Parkitects designed the playground and will supervise volunteers on the build days.  Towner says that the limited scope of the project means that it can be assembled with a relatively small number of volunteers, many of whom are expected to come from Cargill.  Part of Cargill's initiative is for their employees to participate in volunteer activities.  Towner says it is a natural fit for them to help support it financially and for their employees to help build it.

Preparation and work on the surrounding fence will begin on August 11th.  On the 14th 10 people will mark out the space and lay in concrete.  On the 15th 16 to 20 people will spread mulch and begin putting together the playground elements, and by the end of the day on Friday everything should be together.

The playground will include a sandbox, swing set, a saddle spinner, and a big element with ladders and slides.

"Kids'll have things to play on, a table to sit at, a sandbox, a shade tree, and someplace for parents to sit," Towner says.

Although construction hasn't even begun yet, Towner has bigger plans for the north side of the Y property.  In the future he wants to add an outdoor program space that has a basketball court that can be used for tennis as well, that includes a pavilion and a playground for 6 to 12 year olds.  And he says eventually a teeter-totter and a hopscotch court will be added to the 3-5 year old playground.

Towner also says he sees the playground as an opportunity to make the Y more a part of the Tompkins county community.  When it is not being used for Y activities he plans to open it to the public.

"Everything I'm trying to do in all our initiatives is to make the community based," he says.  "This isn't a YMCA compound.  It's going to be accessible for people to come in and use.  During programming, of course...if kids are on the playground during camp programming it can't be open to the public.  But as soon as they're done we want people from the community to use it and be a part of what the Y is trying to offer."

The Y will host the grand opening as part of a Saturday Fun Fair on August 23.

"We're going to have a community fun fair and open house here," Towner says.  "We're going to have the grand opening of the playground.  And we're going to have a recognition ceremony for our new branding.  Our new logo will go in front of the building."

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