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West Virginia: Beaver Coal, Pinecrest Willing to Soften Deadline for YMCA Land Transfer



March 10, 2020 - In the wake of the July 4 death of billionaire philanthropist Chris Cline, representatives of Pinecrest Development Corporation and Beaver Coal Co. Ltd. both said Monday that their organizations are willing to extend a deadline for a land transfer in order to accommodate construction of a new YMCA facility.

In July 2018, Y leaders announced that Cline, through his nonprofit Cline Family Foundation, had agreed to put $10 million toward construction of a $30 million, 120,000-square-foot facility on a hillside overlooking the Paul Cline Memorial Sports Youth Complex. Cline had donated the complex to the YMCA earlier.


Pedestrians walk along the walking and running trail at the YMCA of Southern West Virginia's Paul Cline Memorial Sports Complex in front of the proposed new location of the YMCA of Southern West Virginia in Beckley on Monday.

Photo: Chris Jackson, The Register-Herald


A woman walks into the current YMCA of Southern West Virignia location in Beckley on Monday.

Photo: Chris Jackson, The Register-Herald

With help from former U.S. Del. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., Y CEO Jay Rist secured Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) funds in 2018 to build the new facility. To complete the funding, private donors were commissioned to raise the remaining $4 million.

By October 2018, local donors had given $700,000 toward the project. Rist declined Monday to offer additional information on community donations.

The site plan unveiled by the YMCA in July 2018 called for an estimated two-thirds of the 120,000-square-foot facility to be situated on a plot of land that is owned by Beaver Coal Co. LLC, including the front entrance and a parking lot. The remainder of the facility would be built on an adjacent tract of land that Beaver Coal donated to the YMCA in December 1999.

When architectural plans in late summer 2018 called for two-thirds of the proposed facility to be constructed on land owned by Beaver Coal Co., Beaver Coal had asked Pinecrest to return another plot of acreage that Beaver had donated to the Y and that the Y had donated to Pinecrest in 2002, in return for offering the necessary parcel of land to the Y for the new facility.

Beaver Coal and Pinecrest had pledged by April to make the exchange and to give the land to the Y, if all $30 million of funding is in place for the project by June 20, 2020, Rist said in April.

Early on July 4, 2019, Cline, 60, and his daughter, Kameron Cline, 22, were among four southern West Virginians who were killed in a helicopter crash in the Bahamas.

The donation from the Cline Family Foundation had not taken place, prior to the tragedy.

The Beckley community reacted in disbelief and heartbreak with local victims' families to the deaths of the Clines, Delaney Wykle of Beckley, David Jude of Wyoming County and others who lost their lives in the crash. Many in Beckley report that the wound has still not healed.

Joe Bevel, general manager of Beaver Coal, said Monday that Rist had briefly updated Beaver Coal board members on the progress of the funding in October.

"October was shortly after the death of Chris Cline, and I don't think they had even touched base with that foundation," Bevel said of the Cline Family Foundation. "They were giving the family plenty of time to grieve."

Bevel said that transfer of the land has not taken place yet but that Beaver Coal will make the transfer when the money is secured.

"I'd be interested to see how much they've (the Y) raised and what percentage of their pool they're looking at," said Bevel. "We'd do an extension, if we thought things were moving forward with it.

"Both organizations, Beaver Coal and Pinecrest Development, said that this would be something that would benefit the Beckley area, and we both support that," said Bevel.

"We think that having something built up there would greatly benefit the Beckley-Raleigh County area, and that's why we worked together with Pinecrest, so that we could do something up there," he added. "We would like it to happen."

He said that no other entities have currently expressed interest in the property and that it is likely Beaver Coal could soften the July 1, 2020, deadline if Y officials notify them of progress.

Bill Baker, vice president of Pinecrest, said Monday that Pinecrest had set a July 1, 2020, deadline for the land transfer to take place with Beaver Coal but that Pinecrest is also willing to soften the deadline, following the tragedy that struck the Cline, Wykle and Jude families and others.

Baker said Pinecrest is waiting on Y representatives to approach his organization with news of the funding.

"We will work with the Y, if that helps to get the project started," Baker said.

Plans for the facility were changed slightly after the original renderings were made. In April, the project was in the bidding and negotiations phase and an architect had been enlisted.

The Y is a key organization in promoting health in the city, particularly among underserved populations downtown. Since taking the helm as CEO, Rist has secured funding and overseen efforts to renovate the existing facility in downtown Beckley, which currently serves West Virginia University Institute of Technology students and the community at large.

The late Cline, who had become a billionaire in the coal industry, had kept close ties with his friends in Beckley. He is recognized as a major benefactor to Beckley and to West Virginia.

Rist declined to comment on the status of the $10 million donation from the Cline Family Foundation on Monday but said that news on the project would likely be available to the public in several weeks.