Wallingford YMCA breaks ground for playscape, as renovation plans progress

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — Several local, state and national leaders, including U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a new playscape Friday at the Wallingford Family YMCA.

About three dozen people gathered in the clear but chilly morning at the YMCA eastside branch, 81 S. Elm St., to visit the site of the future play area and publicly thank the sponsor, Ulbrich Steel.

Ulbrich CEO Chris Ulbrich, general manager Jonathan Ulbrich and Liliana Ulbrich, who coordinated with the YMCA on the playscape, attended the ceremony.

Chris Ulbrich said that over the years, the Wallingford community has supported Ulbrich Steel as a company and its employee base, and that the playscape is a gift “in the name of our employees.”

Sean Doherty, Wallingford Family YMCA executive director, said construction is scheduled to begin April 19 and be completed by late May, with a ribbon cutting planned for June.

In addition to the playscape — for kids ages 6-12 — the site plans include a screened-in tent with picnic tables. An existing octagon “gaga” pit will be moved to behind the adjacent Rotary-Y Teen Center backyard. Gaga is a variation of dodgeball. 

Many of the comments from the six speakers Friday recognized and praised the Ulbrichs’ generosity for not just the playscape, but for all the community projects the company has sponsored.

DeLauro said the Ulbrichs embodied “the immigrant story, the kind of stories that built America as a hard working, unique country.”

“Your entrepreneurship,” DeLauro said, “your inventiveness (and) technology, but your commitment to invest in America, and your employees, and to give back to your community — I wish that that was the American story elsewhere, but it is here, it is here in Wallingford.”

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. praised the project in his trademark theatrical and entertaining manner, saying that the Ulbrichs were “guilty” of “not only caring (about youth), but providing wholesome programs for youth ... encouraging others to care about youth ... raising money and spending their own money for youth programs and resources.”

State Sen. Paul Cicarella said that it’s important for businesses, small and big, to flourish in Connecticut “so they could do such generous things like this for the children.”

“My children, I have two little ones,” Cicarella said, “and every time they get home and they get a chance to tell me that they were on the playscape, I see it in their faces. They truly enjoy it, and for years to come, because of the generosity of the Ulbrichs, there's going to be a lot of kids having a lot of fun.”

Doherty said that the YMCA had hoped to start the playscape in 2020.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, “we had to put a lot of things on the shelf and reel it back to focus on critical needs, and really get the YMCA sustainable. Not only sustainable, but open again, and then sustainable,” he said.

The YMCA plans to renovate both the eastside and westside branches, releasing the latest plans this week.

Plans for the eastside branch feature a new entrance and enlarged welcome space, new child watch and adventure center, wellness center expansion, renovated gym plus a new gym, renovated locker rooms for all and lap pool upgrade and renovation. 

The westside branch plans include a new aquatics center, with new pools and locker rooms to accommodate families and those with special needs, new indoor track, renovated lobby and outdoor field space for baseball, soccer, lacrosse and other recreation.

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores

Check out the Wallingford Y Vision for our Future presentation
Sean Doherty, Wallingford Family YMCA executive director.

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