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Independence looks to expand fitness options after closing of the YMCA

Updated: 2013-06-18T19:21:22Z

By BRIAN BURNES

The Kansas CIty Star

Independence parks officials this fall hope to expand programming and upgrade facilities to fill the void left by the closing of the Independence YMCA earlier this year.

Beginning this autumn, they hope, the Sermon Community Center at 201 N. Dodgion Ave. will be open at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays for those who want an early workout before regular office hours.

The annual cost for this “Early Bird” program is expected to be $60 a year, said Eric Urfer, the city’s parks and recreation director.

Some spaces in various parks department facilities also will be re-purposed, and the Independence School District will continue to offer public access to the Henley Aquatic Center at Bridger Middle School, 18200 E Missouri 78.

The Henley facility already was offering about 70 percent of the swimming opportunities available at the old Independence YMCA, Urfer told the Independence City Council recently.

Also, the summer season is underway at the Adventure Oasis Water Park, 2100 S. Hub Drive, and swim lessons are available there, he said.

Meanwhile, spaces at the Sermon Center as well as the Truman Memorial Building are being re-designed.

A north room at the Sermon Center will be the site of 12 new circuit weight machines, Urfer said. A third-floor area will be converted to a space for yoga and pilates. Locker room areas are being renovated and an elevator is being repaired.

At the Truman Memorial Building, 416 W. Maple Ave., the stage area is being re-modeled for use by a Silver Sneakers seniors fitness program.

“First and foremost, our residents want us to take care of what we have,” said Urfer.

Also at the Truman Memorial Building, the city is in the process of formalizing a joint parking agreement with the First Baptist Church that will offer more parking spaces.

While the city cannot operate the YMCA facility, Independence city manager Robert Heacock said last week, “we can optimize the use of existing facilities and work effectively in partnership with the Independence School District to serve those unmet needs.”

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City earlier this year announced the closings of the Independence, Raytown and downtown Kansas City, Kan., branches as part of a reorganization that included plans for a new downtown Kansas City facility.

While the downtown Kansas City, Kan., building received a reprieve due to intervention by Unified Government officials, the Independence and Raytown branches closed in April.

Both buildings, at 10301 E. Missouri 350 in Raytown and at 14001 E. 32nd St. in Independence, are listed for sale. Inquiries have been made about both buildings, said Paula Oxler, YMCA spokeswoman, but no final decisions have been made about either facility.

Kevin Boji, Raytown parks and recreation director, said that his department has been in discussions with area youth groups about basketball leagues that would be played at Raytown School District facilities.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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