Toledo YMCA 10/10/17

The planned construction site of the Neal Center YMCA in Toledo pictured Tuesday.

KEVIN KILHOFFER, JOURNAL GAZETTE & TIMES-COURIER

MATTOON -- The two-story, 33,000-square-foot Neal Center will be constructed on an empty lot at 130 Courthouse Square, at the northeast corner of the square. Mattoon YMCA Senior Adviser Tony Sparks said the construction of this more than $4 million facility will take about 12 months.

The Neal Center is slated to offer an indoor pool, a full gym and half gym, indoor walking and jogging track, fitness studios, wellness center, child watch room, multipurpose and youth room, and lobby.

"We are certainly very excited about bringing the YMCA's programs and services to the community of Cumberland County. We believe we can be a great asset," said Mattoon YMCA CEO Blake Fairchild, He added that the Neal Center could host aquatic programs, summer camps, youth sports, and more. "We are looking forward to the opportunity to expand our services beyond the Mattoon area."

Sparks said Neal Center members will be able to utilize the Mattoon facility and Mattoon YMCA members will be able to use the Toledo facility. He said Neal Center members also will be able use the Mattoon YMCA's access agreement with Sarah Bush Lincoln’s Center for Healthy Living.

"We have quite a few folks from Cumberland County who belong to the YMCA. It just seems like a natural fit," Sparks said.

The Mattoon YMCA reported that the Neal Center has been made possible by the estate of Burnham Neal, who died in 2012. Neal, a Toledo native, owned the Neal Tire & Auto Service company that his family founded and was a philanthropist. The Neal Foundation administers the estate, and Neal Center Inc. has led local planning efforts for a recreation center in Toledo for several years.

Neal Center Inc. board member Greg Ervin said Burnham Neal had long wanted Toledo to have a recreation center with an indoor pool. Ervin said Neal Center Inc. had a construction plan but did not have experience managing such a facility, so they sought input from the Mattoon YMCA. He said these talks eventually led to a joint venture with the Mattoon YMCA.

"The Mattoon YMCA will be an excellent partner," said Ervin, who plans to join the Mattoon YMCA board alongside other Neal Center Inc. board members.

Ervin said the Neal Center will serve residents of Toledo and other Cumberland County communities and will potentially draw residents from neighboring Clark and Jasper counties. He said Sarah Bush Lincoln could eventually utilize the Neal Center to bring fitness programs closer to patients in these counties.

In addition, Ervin said having YMCA services available in Toledo could help bring new residents and businesses to Toledo. He said the Neal Center will help complete a series of building improvements on the courthouse square that has recently included construction of a new Sarah Bush Lincoln clinic and a Toledo fire station. The Neal Center's exterior has been designed to resemble the look of the courthouse.

Fairchild said the Mattoon YMCA plans to start offering charter membership opportunities soon for the Neal Center. Sparks added that they plan to hold a public meeting sometime in November at Cumberland High School to share additional information about the project.

"We want to make sure the folks in Toledo know we are all about community. We certainly want to engage with the various community groups that exist and find ways to strengthen Cumberland County," Sparks said.

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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