YMCA breaks ground for new facility

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Herb Wilkinson, director, speaks to a group of Vicksburg residents during a groundbreaking Tuesday for the new Dr. William Kendrick Purks YMCA off East Clay Street.(The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[10/2/01]In a year to 18 months the youngsters who participated in Tuesday’s groundbreaking will be playing at the new William Kendrick Purks YMCA.

The long-planned building will rise on a 12-acre tract south of East Clay Street at the end of what is now called YMCA Place, largely due to local philanthropy.

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Purks, who was a physician, was a supporter and board member of Y operations in Vicksburg from 1954 until he died April 5.

The decision to name the new building in his honor was announced in December.

Also key to the effort was Howard Miller, businessman and state wildlife leader, who died April 1, 1999.

“Our campaign started about six or eight years ago with the building and search,” said Fred Farrell, who headed YMCA Vision 2000 campaign.

The fund campaign, of which Miller was honorary chairman, was named in Miller’s honor after his death.

“Howard, this is for you,” Farrell said with a catch in his voice while pointing toward the sky.

Farrell also thanked the members of the Waring family and Pam and Jerry Beard who donated the land for the facility that will replace the Downtown YMCA.

“In a feasibility study about three years ago, experts said we could expect to raise about $1.5 million to $2 million, but that was not enough for a building,” Farrell said. “So, I challenged the board to raise $3 million. Right now we have in donations and pledges $3.1 million.

The new building will enclose 32,000 square feet, or about 10,000 square feet smaller than the building at 821 Clay St. The biggest difference between the two buildings is all the space in the Purks Y will be usable for various programs and all on one floor. Two floors of the Downtown Y contain dormitory rooms that have not been used in years.

The old building has already been sold to T. Michael Hayes and his wife Judy from Nashville. They plan to convert the structure into 27 one and two-bedroom condominiums for sale to people 55 and older.

Features included in the design by David Lemons of Cooke, Douglas, Farr and Lemons Ltd. Architects and Engineers are:

Full-sized gymnasium with multipurpose floor, six goals and cross courts for younger players.

Dressing rooms with showers.

Special needs locker rooms for people who don’t want to use conventional locker rooms.

A 3,200-square-foot wellness center.

Large group exercise room.

An indoor pool

Child-care center.

Racquetball court.

Youth recreation area.

Multipurpose room with catering kitchen.

Conference rooms, offices, etc.

Parking for 150 cars.

Two athletic fields for youth sports.

A jogging path.

The Purks Y will replace Downtown Y, built in 1923 using donations from Fannie Willis Johnson in honor of her late husband. She also funded construction of the Jackson Street YMCA, open to black residents and travelers during segregation.

With the new facility, there will be three Y facilities in Warren County including the Raworth Y on Halls Ferry Road and the Ver Beck facilities on Oak Ridge. The YMCA also owns and operates Warner-Tully YMCA camp in Claiborne County.