The effort to build a new YMCA in Saint John's north end received a major boost from the New Brunswick and federal governments on Monday.
They announced a combined investment of more than $9 million.
They say the facility, which will be built on Churchill Boulevard in Crescent Valley — between two of the city's poorest neighbourhoods — will transform the north end.
"This is going to change this part of Saint John for generations," said Premier David Alward.
Alward's government put $4 million toward the new YMCA.
The province had also contributed $300,000 toward the design and sold the 1.3-hectare parcel of land to the YMCA for $1.
Saint John MP Rodney Weston delivered $5.3 million from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, fulfilling a promise he made during his 2011 federal election campaign.
Nearly six years ago, the original YMCA was torn down to make room for a provincial courthouse.
The YMCA hasn't had a proper home since.
"This is a great day in our 159-year history. Wow. What a tremendous milestone," said Shiloh Boucher, the YMCA's CEO.
"We've been working on this for a while."
Break ground in spring
The 70,000-square-foot building will include an indoor running track, swimming pool, fitness centre and studio.
"It opens up the Y to people just being able to walk there," said anti-poverty advocate, Juanita Black.
There are great expectations for what the YMCA can deliver to a part of the city that's been in decline.
"When Sears left many years ago, the anchor, the thing that brought people into the community was gone. This is going to bring that anchor back," said Saint John Portland MLA Trevor Holder.
The YMCA comes with 140 jobs, 500 volunteer positions and thousands of users.
"We're going to bring over 15,000 people a year to this location. So it's going to create a lot of traffic and jobs," said Boucher.
Meanwhile, the YMCA itself is quietly running a capital campaign with a goal of $7 million.
But they say they now have what they need to break ground this spring, and expect to open the doors in 2015.