Saint John YMCA ground breaking

Federal, provincial and municipal officials attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Saint John YMCA on Monday. (Neville Crabbe/CBC)

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in Saint John on Monday to mark the official start of construction of the new YMCA.

“Today is the start of building healthier communities through social responsibility, providing economic opportunities, promoting healthy living and nurturing the potential of our young people," Shilo Boucher, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Saint John said in a statement.

The new 6,300-square-metre facility, being built on Churchill Boulevard, in the city's north end, between two of the city's poorest neighbourhoods, will include recreational spaces, multi-purpose space, meeting and instructional rooms.

It will also include an indoor walking and running track, therapeutic pool, 25-metre pool, gymnasium, fitness centre and studio.

The new YMCA is expected to open its doors late next year.

Artist's conception of new Saint John YMCA

Artist's conception of new Saint John YMCA. (CBC)

A capital campaign has raised $4.8 million to date, officials said. The goal is $7 million.

The federal government is investing more than $5.2 million in the project through ACOA’s Innovative Communities Fund (ICF), while the provincial government is contributing $4.3 million, and the YMCA of Greater Saint John has committed more than $11.7 million.

"This clearly will send a signal to developers across the region that this is clearly a strategic place to develop right now," Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture Trevor Holder told the dozens of people gathered for the ceremony.

"We've been needing that kick start for many years in this end of town and this is a sign of what can happen when community members step up to the plate and tell their leaders clearly, 'This is what we want and need,'" said Holder, who is also the MLA for Saint John Portland.

The original YMCA was torn down about six years ago to make room for a provincial courthouse. The YMCA hasn't had a proper home since.

Other participants in Monday's ceremony included Saint John MP Rodney Weston, Saint John Mayor Mel Norton and Greater Saint John YMCA officials.