Cannon Memorial YMCA
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Cannon YMCA

Kannapolis History After 1986

The Cannon Memorial YMCA continued to be supported by the Cannon Mills Company through the early 1980s as the YMCA served as the recreation arm of the company. However, the sale of the Cannon Mills Company to Dole Foods CEO David H. Murdock set in motion distinctive changes in the company's relationship with the YMCA.

kannapolis history after

Picture: Current Kannapolis branch during construction in 1986.

On March 25, 1983, Murdock unveiled plans for an ambitious $20 million downtown redevelopment project that was to significantly change the physical appearance of Kannapolis. At the time of the announcement, a YMCA was not included in the master plan.

The Cannon Mills Company made an offer to donate land for a new YMCA building site and Cannon Mills Company President Max Messmer said the YMCA needed more grass roots support and would need to become self-sufficient. A week after the plans for Murdock's downtown redevelopment were approved, YMCA President Raymond Ward appointed an eight-member capital funds committee which was assigned the task of raising money for a new YMCA. Sam Stroup, who had chaired the YMCA's 75th anniversary celebration (then in progress), was named chairman.

The leadership of the YMCA formed a building committee in April 1983 and Charlotte architect Terry Dalton was hired to prepare preliminary plans. The effort to build a new YMCA came from one compelling fact - redevelopment plans did not include the YMCA building but rather called for its demolition. Cannon Mills General Counsel Pete Tennyson wrote a letter that stated the company would "explore the donation of land...or investigate permitting the use of a suitable a temporary library site." In the summer of 1983, Tennyson sent the YMCA board president a letter confirming the company's offer to donate land for a building in a "new park on the west side of Kannapolis."

In January of 1984, at the ground breaking for the Oak Avenue Mall, Murdock confirmed that he and Cannon Mills President Max Messmer would head the drive to raise money for a new YMCA and Kannapolis library. Sam Stroup continued his role as general chairman of the capital funds committee. The crucial feature for the YMCA fund drive came later that month when the Cannon Foundation announced that its directors had approved a grant of up to $2 million towards a new YMCA. Cannon Mills Company offered $700,000 in cash and land valued at $300,000. Both gifts were contingent on the community raising $1 million. Former YMCA Chair Troy Day remembers the challenge to the board to fund a new branch that had an annual operating budget of $500,000. However the board was successful due to significant efforts by Carlyle Rutledge and Troy Day.

In November 1987 at the closing banquet of the 75th anniversary celebration, the building committee unveiled plans for the new Kannapolis YMCA. That same month, the YMCA made its first request for operational funds from the United Way. Up until that time, the YMCA had recieved an annual gift from Cannon Mills channeled through United Way.

New articles of incorporation and by-laws for Cannon Memorial YMCA and Community Center Inc. were adopted, resulting in the establishment of a nine member governing board. Raymond Ward was elected president of the board. The 76-year old relationship between Cannon Mills and the YMCA was officially redefined in June of 1984 when Murdock presented Ward the deed to the 5.3 acre tract in west Kannapolis. By December, the $1 million from the Kannapolis community had been pledged to the building fund and construction on the new YMCA began in September 1985. Three months later, Bill Fesperman, son of former YMCA general secretary J.T. Fesperman, assumed duties as Executive Director of the YMCA after Shepherd stepped down. In April 1986, Kannapolis businessman Troy Day was elected President of the YMCA. Under the leadership of Fesperman and Day, the YMCA worked to establish an endowment fund and a partnership with the City of Kannapolis to provide recreation for its seniors. The YMCA continues to sponsor and promote healthy activities for the community's active older adult population

The new Kannapolis YMCA opened January 18, 1987. The building has been renovated since that time to include two raquetball courts and an aerobics room. When Pillowtex (purchasers of Cannon Mills) closed its doors to more than 400 workers in 2003, YMCA Board of Directors approved providing annual membership at no cost to those members who lost their jobs.

cannon y opening

Picture: Grand Opening pamphlet for the Cannon Memorial YMCA.