Groups close to finalizing YMCA agreement

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie | ablanks@thedestinlog.com
Shrubbery and weeds run wild at the old YMCA building. ANNIE BLANKS/THE LOG

Officials with the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation and the Emerald Coast Fitness Foundation are in the process of finalizing a lease agreement for the Fort Walton Beach-based swimming group to take over the old YMCA building and swimming pool in Destin.

The MKAF announced in August that it had selected the Fitness Foundation to take over the Destin YMCA, which closed in 2014. The Fitness Foundation, which operates a community pool in Fort Walton Beach, hopes to raise $180,000 to transform the Destin YMCA building and pool into a new swimming and water safety facility.

First, though, it must finalize the lease agreement with MKAF.

“We met and came to a tentative agreement with members from our foundation board and members of their foundation board,” said Pam Brasseth, ECFF Secretary. “Our board has approved it and sent it to them signed and we are waiting for what we hope will be their board approval.”

Braseth added that if the contract is agreed upon, the lease will start Jan. 1. Representatives for MKAF did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this article.

Destin City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell, who sat on the YMCA board in 2014 and has been an advocate for revitalizing the pool since it closed, said that both MKAF and the Fitness Foundation have been in talks over the lease and hope to come to an agreement soon.

“My understanding is that they have gone back and forth in terms of the cost of the lease and available land for parking and just some different terms,” Ramswell said. “But they are close to reaching an agreement and moving forward, and they have their eyes set on January.

“And really, the sooner the better because the middle school swimming season is about to begin and I know everyone is looking forward to getting that going,” she added.

Ramswell added that the pool could be used for a variety of activities, including Destin Middle School swimming, water aerobics, water safety training for the Destin Beach Safety program and Special Olympics events.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for the entire community,” she said. “We’ve really been at a disadvantage by not having a swimming pool available to the public.”