Mark Warner traded in the Senate floor for a basketball court Friday as he tipped off the Caroline YMCA's inaugural game.
Warner, D-Va., a basketball fan and longtime member of the YMCA, told those who gathered for the facility's grand opening that he was thrilled to be a part of the community's big moment.
"There's nothing that can't be accomplished if people come together with a sense of community and can-do spirit," he said, and commented that he wished some of that spirit he witnessed in Caroline could happen in the nation's capital.
The facility is the result of about a decade of negotiations between Caroline County and the YMCA, and is nearly complete.
Barney Reiley, CEO of the Rapphannock Area YMCA, said he hopes to have the facility open to members in two weeks.
Before that can happen, the Caroline YMCA has to come up with a paving plan that is acceptable to the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Caroline Board of Supervisors. The plan was pushed back due to inclement winter weather. There are also a few minor projects to finish inside of the facility.
Reiley said that after so many years of planning, he is happy the opening is within sight.
"I think it is a glaring need in Caroline County," he said. "There was no real option for health and wellness here. Not until now."
The 41,000-square-foot facility will have two pools. One, for competition, will give Caroline County Schools its first opportunity to have a competitive swim team, and is 25 yards wide by 25 meters long.
The other pool is for therapy.
The 6,000-square-foot fitness area will have a large selection of cardiovascular machines, weight- and circuit-training equipment, as well as free weights.
Board of Supervisors member Wayne Acors, who has pursued the project since 2004, spoke at the event as well.
He said with more than 500 members signed up before the facility's opening, and fundraising activities in the county since 2012, "the YMCA is much larger and much more than one building or any one individual."
Keith Marine, executive officer of the Caroline YMCA, told the crowd gathered for the opening that he has an answer for those who ask, "Why here? Why do we need a Y in this community?"
"We need a Y so a child who lives near Lake Caroline … can learn to swim. We can save a life. So instead of newly licensed teenagers driving on 95, they can come here."
Kim Mills joined the YMCA nearly a year ago when memberships were announced.
"I think it's great," she said. "The speakers today really emphasized the county coming together. And I think that's important. We used to drive to the one in Spotsylvania, and this is closer, in our community."
Her daughter Payton Mills, 12, wants to be one of the first members to use the pool.
Mills' daughter-in-law Sarah Faulconer is the membership director at the Y.
"It's been a long journey," Faulconer said. "I saw it when it was just a steel skeleton, but seeing it like this, it has walls and life and warmth."
Warner also visited Hugh Mercer Elementary in Fredericksburg on Friday to meet 7-year-old cancer patient Josh Hardy's classmates.
He said that after meeting Josh's teachers and classmates, he threw away his original speech for the grand opening.
Warner said seeing how the community came together to help Josh, and how they came together to build the YMCA in Caroline, showed the spirit of what a group of people can do.
"It's about community coming together and saying we're going to help," he said. "That's the spirit of the YMCA, too."
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976 firstname.lastname@example.orgá