The YMCA of Greater Kansas City will announce today a sweeping strategic plan that calls for building a new YMCA in downtown Kansas City by early 2016, closing three struggling neighborhood Ys and undertaking major renovations at two others.
By KEVIN COLLISON
The Kansas City Star
The overhaul proposal follows a two-year review of the 17 area YMCA facilities launched by David Byrd. He became chief executive of the Kansas City YMCA in 2010 after helping lead an $80 million overhaul of the YMCA system in Nashville, Tenn., that included renovating and expanding its downtown facility.
We are unwavering in our commitment to strengthening the greater Kansas City community, and we look forward to continuing to be here for decades to come, Byrd said. We have made some difficult decisions to ensure that we can deliver our mission and also be good stewards of available resources.
Kansas City, unlike many major cities, has been without a large downtown YMCA since 1981 when the YMCA closed a seven-story building at 10th and Oak streets that first opened in 1907. It was demolished in 1999 to make way for Ilus W. Davis Park. A smaller Y has been operating in the Quality Hill district since 1989.
The new proposal calls for building a 100,000-square-foot YMCA on a surface parking lot owned by UMB Bank on the southeast corner of 10th Street and Grand Boulevard.
The extensive renovations are planned for the Linwood YMCA at 3800 E. Linwood Ave. in Kansas City, and the Atchison Family YMCA in Atchison, Kan. A fundraising campaign is expected to kick off next month.
The three Ys to be closed next month are the Independence Family Y, 14001 E. 32nd St.; the Richard C. Green Sr. Family Y on Missouri 350 in Raytown; and the Eighth Street Family Y in Kansas City, Kan. The closed facilities have a total of 2,400 members and have 11 full-time and 160 part-time employees.
The Ys being closed had declining membership, rising operating expenses and a significant amount of deferred maintenance. Byrd said members of the closed Ys would be able to transfer to other nearby Ys, but they range from 9 to 12 miles away.
The YMCA also has been facing increased competition in recent years from the expanding number of private and public fitness centers in the metro.
In another move, the operations of the Miami County YMCA in Osawatomie, Kan., will be transferred to the school district, which owns the building. It will be up to the school district to hire the three full-time and 49 part-time Y employees there. The Miami County Y has 700 members.
Fundraising for the ambitious capital plan, estimated at $60 million to $65 million, is expected to begin in earnest after a leadership cabinet of Kansas City area business executives has had an opportunity to meet. Byrd did not disclose who had agreed to serve but said its a fabulous group when you get the names youll be wowed.
J. Mariner Kemper, CEO of UMB Financial Corp., said the bank was glad the YMCA chose its location, and Peter DeSilva, president and chief operating officer, will play a key role in the fundraising.
Peter will be directly involved in seeing it through, Kemper said. We are very excited about it. We think it would be great for downtown and its a great spot for it.
When the YMCA first discussed a downtown location in December 2011, the 10th and Grand spot was among five being considered. Byrd said the UMB property was chosen because of its prime location and the strong support of civic leaders.
A letter of intent has been signed with the bank.
Tenth and Grand was a big piece, he said. Many of the people in the leadership cabinet were excited about it.
Though he declined to disclose how much money had been raised, Byrd said several pledges had been made to the downtown endeavor.
The fundraising effort calls for approaching key civic leaders through the early fall and then launching a general campaign that would go through much of 2014.
If all goes well, construction would begin on the downtown project by the end of next year and the facility would open in early 2016. The timetable of the renovation and expansion of the Linwood and Atchison facilities would depend on separate fundraising efforts for those projects.
Improvements at the Linwood Y, which opened in 1975, would include an indoor pool, indoor track, a possible teen center and additional parking. Similar improvements are planned for the Atchison Y, which opened in 1914.
The closings of the three other Ys and shift in operation at Miami County resulted from the same strategic review. Byrd said a professional survey that included more than 1,200 people along with discussions with community leaders led to the decision.
Although we are saddened by closing any YMCAs, well continue to be there from a service standpoint and look at options for additional programs, he said.
Byrd declined to discuss how much the Greater Kansas City YMCA, which has a $43 million annual budget, would save with the closings.
The overhaul hit Kansas City, Kan., particularly hard.
In addition to closing the Eighth Street YMCA, Byrd said his organization had scrapped the idea of building a new downtown Y in Kansas City, Kan., something that had been considered at the outset of its strategic planning process two years ago.
We went to donors and couldnt find the financial support, he said. Well continue to think about it in the future.
The Quality Hill YMCA also is likely to be closed once the proposed downtown facility is completed.
Byrd said he hoped a new downtown Y would contribute to the revival of downtown.
After the Y in downtown Nashville was renovated and expanded in 2008 at a cost of $23 million, membership doubled and monthly visits jumped from 20,000 to 47,000.
It will take a lot of support from leaders and the community to make it real, but when its done, it will serve a variety of populations and be a fabric-builder for the community, he said.