New YMCA opens on historical ground in Fort Lauderdale

A brand new YMCA in central Fort Lauderdale’s Sistrunk Corridor opened on Friday morning.

“It’s a very unique building. There’s not another one like this in the country,” Sheryl Woods, of YMCA of South Florida, said.

The building stands at 65,000 square feet and over $20 million was spent to create multiple exercise facilities, a preschool, classrooms, a conference space, and even a full black box theater that can seat 200 people.

However, this YMCA isn’t just a brand new facility to serve the community, the LA Lee YMCA Mizell Community Center was built on sacred ground.

“This is where the first Black hospital was that gave care to the Black community when we were refused care at Broward General,” Commissioner Robert L. McKinzie said.

The new YMCA facility was constructed on top of the former site of a Provident Hospital, which is named after one of the first black physicians in Fort Lauderdale, Dr. Von Mizell.

He opened an all-Black hospital in the 1930s, which later became a community center that has sat vacant for the past decade in the deprived neighborhood.

“A lot of history in this community, tremendous history,” Woods said.

The Mizell family was at the gym Friday morning to witness the opening, along with local political and business leaders.

On the outside of the gym, you can see a four-lane, 25-meter swimming pool where children in the community can learn how to swim and where police and EMTs can train.

Having pool access in the predominantly African American community, with access to swimming lessons will hopefully curb the disproportionate drowning deaths in Black children.

The facility will be funded through a partnership with the city of Fort Lauderdale through the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, Housing Authority and other partners.

The new YMCA is expected to impact more than 55,000 people every year.

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