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150 People Turn Out for Groundbreaking of YMCA’s Blackburn Indoor Athletic Facility

The ceremonial groundbreaking was conducted by YMCA children and Linville Resorts President and General Manager John Blackburn, whom the facility is named after.

By Jesse Wood

The Williams YMCA of Avery County held its ceremonial groundbreaking of the new $1.2 million John M. Blackburn Indoor Athletic Facility in Linville on Sunday, and more than 150 people attended.

“It was an incredible event,” Williams YMCA of Avery County CEO Trey Oakley said.

In addition to the ceremonial shoveling with Blackburn and seven children from the Y, speakers included Avery County Schools Supt. David Burleson, Oakley and Blackburn.

Linville Resorts President and General Manager John Blackburn and Avery County Schools Supt. David Burleson speak together at Sunday’s event.

Once complete, the new facility will provide an athletic haven for the community when the weather is at its worst, which for the High Country amounts to a substantial chunk of the year during harsh winters and rainy summers.

Plans for the facility includes two basketball courts with multi-purpose flooring and a 6,000-square-foot indoor turf and batting cage facility. Overall, the facility will be able to accommodate open play, practice and tournaments in basketball, baseball, volleyball, indoor soccer, golf practice, pickleball and more.

“Well, for the Avery County community, I think it’s going to be one of the bigger things that’s happened here since the Y itself was built,” Oakley said a couple weeks ago. “For the community, it’s incredible. For the Y itself, it’s a crowning point for us to be able to continue to find quality programs for families here.”

The facility will also provide a space for general fitness programs.

Oakley noted that the Williams YMCA of Avery County hired a new athletic development employee, Jim Shimburski, who specializes in fitness training such as plyometrics, speed and agility, and will work at the YMCA and also in the Avery County Schools system.

“We have an incredible relationship with the school system,” Oakley said. “Jim is going to the schools and working in the PE classes with all the students [from 5th to 12th grade] and will also specialize in after-school hours in multi-sports and group training at the Y and individual private trainings at the Y.”

He also said mentioned an Allison Phillips, the YMCA’s youth sports and development director, who will grow more so into that role once the Blackburn Indoor Athletic Facility comes on line.

The YMCA opened in 2007, and this project has been in the making for a couple years now. “It’s been a dream for about two years and has been in the planning stages for about a year and a half,” Oakley said.

The jumping off point, so to speak, was when an anonymous donor made a matching $250,000 donation for the indoor athletic facility. The capital budget for building the facility is $1.2 million, and Oakley said that about $1.1 million has been raised so far. Oakley mentioned that the local YMCA is currently raising the final $75,000 for equipment that will go in the building.

Perhaps if the stars align, the Williams YMCA of Avery County will celebrate its 10th anniversary and the opening of the Blackburn Indoor Athletic Facility at the same time next April.

“That would be absolutely perfect to celebrate all that at once,” Oakley said.

The facility is expected to take six to eight months to build. If nothing else, the plan is for the facility to open up and be operational before the next school year.

John M. Blackburn, the namesake of the building, is a community leader in Avery and Watauga counties. Blackburn is the general manager of Linville Resorts and has served or is serving on the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees, UNC Board of Governors, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Crossnore School Inc. and, of course, the Williams YMCA of Avery County.

“It’s just a really big thank you to him for all he’s made possible in Avery County [and Watauga County], and without John, the Y wouldn’t be here and Cannon and quite a few other opportunities wouldn’t exist without him,” Oakley said.

The indoor facility is located on the campus of Cannon Memorial Hospital as is the existing Williams YMCA of Avery County in Linville.

For more information, click to http://ymcaavery.org/

See more pictures of Sunday’s event and updated building plans below.

Linville Resorts President and General Manager John Blackburn
Avery County Schools Supt. David Burleson
Blackburn and Burleson
Williams YMCA of Avery CEO Trey Oakley



The following are updated plans of the new facility. These don’t include the 6,000 square foot indoor turf facility that will house the batting cages and more and will attach to the facility.

081626 A-3 Upperl Level Plan
Upper Level Plan
082616 A-2 Main Level Plan
Main Level Plan
082616 A-5 Elevations
Hospital Street and Entry Elevations
082616 S-1 Site Plan
Site Plan