Local teen pushes state leaders to re-open former YMCA building

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MONTGOMERY, WV (WVNS) — In a small corner of West Virginia along a bend in the Kanawha River is the quiet little town of Montgomery. This little town is home to 13 year old Wyatt Coleman.

Coleman isn’t just another teenager in a small town as his actions have caught the attention of the Montgomery Parks Commission, the towns Fire Department, their chief of police, the media, and even the Mayor. A mayor who held a rally Tuesday in direct response to Coleman and his actions.

It all started back in 2015 when the West Virginia legislature and Former West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin voted to move the WVU campus in Montgomery to Beckley, WV.

Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram stated, “What that did was that closed all this campus area down and we’ve been trying to try to fill some of these buildings back up but the deferred maintenance on this building we feel like is the responsibility of the State of West Virginia. We’re asking, we’re asking the Governor and the legislature and they have letters on their desk right now for a request to pay for the deferred payments on this building.”

The building in question is the Neal D. Baisi Athletic Center, former home to the YMCA of Upper Kanawha Valley. The YMCA closed in 2020 due to financial hardship and the pandemic. The YMCA was a popular spot for Wyatt Coleman and when it closed, it left Coleman without a place to go.

“This place a special place in my heart. I met a lot of my really good friends and I love the sport of basketball and I think that other people need to cherish that just as I did,” said Wyatt Coleman.

So Coleman, not wanting to lose this outlet of growth and fun, walked into the Montgomery City Parks Commission meeting to plead with city leaders to reopen the building. Lou-Ann Bowen Montgomery Parks Committee was at that meeting.

“Wyatt Coleman showed up at our parks board meeting the other night and he was just thinking it is the city of Montgomery. And No, it’s not us,” stated Lou-Ann Bowen Montgomery Parks Committee.

After finding out that the city of Montgomery has been working with WVU to obtain the former athletic building but it was the state standing in his way he turned his attention to the West Virginia Governor. But not before word of his brave action in front of the city committee spread through the whole town. “

Bowen said, “I told my husband it was the best parks meeting because we wanted people to care.”

Coleman left that committee meeting and with the help of his friend started an online petition. It has since gained over 930 signatures in support of reopening the athletic building. So, at a rally set up by Mayor Ingram, Coleman took his fight directly to the governor.

“Governor Justice I just hope that you’re not going to let this blow by you because we have people who are willing to speak up and do good for our communities. I hope that you listen,” said Wyatt Coleman.

Coleman hopes to gain more support on his petition so he can deliver it directly to the Governor. If the legislature and the governor sign off on funding for the repairs required, Mayor Ingram pledges to reopen the Baisi Athletic Building.

The city council and I have decided that if they pay for the differed payments we’ll open this building back up as a community center.

So, for a hard working teen simply trying to make his town a better place and get in a game of basketball after school, he put the ball squarely in the State of West Virginia’s court at Tuesday’s rally.

Wyatt Coleman continues to ask for support on his petition while the City of Montgomery holds more meetings with WVU over the fate of the athletic center. For more information on Colemans efforts including head over to his petition on Change.org.

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