Canton native and former NBA guard returns for groundbreaking ceremony for $5 million project.

It’s not about the name on the building that matters to Canton native and former NBA standout Eric Snow; it’s the thousands of men, women and children who will pass through its doors for generations to come.

Snow, whose $1 million donation made construction of a new downtown YMCA possible, spoke humbly about his role in the project at a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday at Timken High School. The 27,000-square-foot facility at Second Street and McKinley Avenue NW will be called the Eric Snow Family YMCA.

“It may bear my name, but it’s not about me, it’s not for me and it’s not because of me,” Snow said. “...It’s for our children and the many people that came before me that gave me an opportunity to experience it.”

The $5 million project will replace the now-demolished building that was shuttered in 2008 due to financial woes. The new YMCA will include a gymnasium, 20-yard indoor pool, fitness center with cardio and weight training equipment and a youth center. Site work is underway. It will open in January 2014.

“It’s big for the city from the standpoint that it will reach every age group, especially the youth,” said Snow, the former McKinley Bulldog and Michigan State Spartan.

Snow, who will turn 40 next week, said the YMCA played an important part in his childhood, reinforcing the values his parents taught him and helping build his social, physical and emotional character. He said it was gratifying to take part in the ceremony.

“You have an opportunity to see something coming to fruition that you’re a part of and that, in the near future, will be a big part of this city,” he said. “It’s a tremendous feeling.”

Snow was named director of player personnel at Southern Methodist University in February. He’ll work for men’s basketball Coach Larry Brown, who he played under for six seasons as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. In his 13-season NBA career, Snow reached the NBA Finals three times as a member of the Seattle Supersonics, the 76ers and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

YMCA of Central Stark County CEO Tim Shetzer said the project has grown a bit in size and cost over the last year, but remains modest to the facility it replaces.

The former building, through a series of additions, grew to 100,000 square feet. Annual operating expenses outpaced revenue by $200,000 in the years leading up to its 2008 closing. Programs offered by the organization have been carried on by schools and churches.

The YMCA is within $275,000 of fully funding the project. Twenty one other donors were recognized Wednesday for contributions exceeding $10,000. The project is also funded by a $700,000 federal grant secured by former U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township.

More than 75 people attended the groundbreaking, which included remarks by Mayor William J. Healy II, Canton City Schools Superintendent Adrian Allison and Stark County Common Pleas Judge Lee Sinclair.

Sinclair, president of the YMCA board, said the groundbreaking was the first step in keeping a promise made to the community.

“When the building was closed and eventually demolished, a lot of people said, ‘That’s the end of programming in downtown Canton for the youth,’” Sinclair said. “But we made a promise and that promise was that we would rebuild and that we would make a facility available to the youth of this community. The YMCA kept that promise.”

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WHO: YMCA of Central Stark County

WHERE: Second Street NW and McKinley Avenue NW

COST: $5 million

RAISED: $4.725 million, including $1 million from Eric Snow and $700,000 federal grant

SIZE: 27,000 square feet.

ABOUT: Includes gymnasium, 20-yard-long indoor pool, fitness center with cardio and weight training equipment and a youth center.

MEMBERSHIP: Estimated 4,000 members