With the former site of Immaculate Conception school slated for residential development, the school’s former gymnasium will become a part of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC).
Earlier this year, a purchase agreement was established between GIAC and the City of Ithaca, but now comes the hard part: raising the money. The gym will be surrounded by a new affordable housing development, run by Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services.
Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, GIAC’s executive director and a Tompkins County legislator, kicked off a fundraising campaign during a press conference in mid-July. She is excited for the journey that lies ahead and is looking to get the whole GIAC program involved in this effort. The goal, though, is about $1 million, which is a challenge in itself.
“I’ve challenged all of our programs, so that there’s ownership, that they try to raise at least $5,000,” McBean-Clairborne said. “Each program has their own ideas about doing that. We will be doing a massive mailing out to our community as well because we want our community to have a part of this. [...] We are also looking for larger funding from various places, all things involved. This is going to be a real comprehensive approach towards raising the funding.”
While the gym has a well-maintained structure, there is a great deal of work to do on the inside. The money will be allocated to upgrade the gym and to make some additions that would allow the gym to house GIAC’s teen program.
“The frame of it is really great but it does need some updates to the mechanical system—it has a gym divider that we need to remove,” McBean-Clairborne said. “The bleachers are broken so we need to upgrade that, we hope to work in putting in a new HVAC system, the lighting has to change, certainly making it handicap accessible, and the bathrooms all need to be upgraded. [...] So, really just doing a lot of upgrades. The plumbing system needs to be upgraded as well and our desire is to make all of it energy efficient.”
Some of the new additions to the gym will be a small animation/recording studio for teens, which GIAC already has the funding for, as well as some of the teen activities moving there as well. McBean-Clairborne has noticed that GIAC’s main building is practically bursting at the seams trying to house their numerous programs. By moving the teen program, she has found there will be some rooms opened up in GIAC’s main building, which will allow more kids to enter some of their programs. This is dependent upon staffing, though.
Most of GIAC’s programs have a wait list, something the organization is looking to remedy with the increased space. McBean-Clairborne said many of the programs are filled to capacity during both the school year and the summertime. As with any fundraising effort of this magnitude, there will be plenty of challenges to face along the way, though McBean-Clairborne added that she is confident they’ll be able to meet their goals if the message is spread accurately.
“The biggest challenge, of course, is funding and getting people to see this is not just a gym for basketball,” McBean-Clairborne said. “It’s more than that. It is actually a program space for another more vulnerable population, for teens. They need a space. It’s really getting people to understand that and support it—I think that’s our biggest challenge. Often, what people hear is, it’s a gym, it’s for basketball, and it’s much more than that. Just like at GIAC, we are much more than just an after school program or a rec center. We are much more than that. We serve from four-year-olds all the way to senior citizens.”