The YMCA has started transitioning from its Vivion Road location to the North Kansas City Community Center. While some are eager for the move, others are more apprehensive.
Katie Vivas, executive director of the Vivion Road Family YMCA, said the move is bittersweet for her.
“Most people will probably miss the outdoor pool (at Vivion Road),” she said. “There are a lot of great parts of this building, but the opportunities over there outweigh what we have here.”
Current employees at the North Kansas City Community Center may be most affected by Thursday’s move. The YMCA gave them first consideration for new positions.
Paula Oxler, the vice president of communications and public relations at the YMCA, said the agency will have about 190 associates at the new Y.
“North Kansas City Community Center had approximately 100 associates … It’s tough to do a direct comparison, but we’ll have more associates because we’ll be doing additional programs,” Oxler said.
She added that community center employees who are hired by the YMCA are being offered the same rate of pay.
Yet Oxler said that approximately 120 employees will make the transition from the Vivion Road location to the new center, leaving the YMCA about 70 positions at the North Kansas City center to offer the 100 employees who worked there.
“All North Kansas City associates had the opportunity to apply for positions at North Kansas City YMCA as well as throughout the YMCA of Greater Kansas City,” Oxler said. “Of those who chose to apply, a majority were offered positions with the Y and accepted those positions.
“We continue to accept applications.”
Sara Copeland, a public information officer for North Kansas City, said her office is aware of the shortage and has drafted a severance package to assist community center employees. Copeland said those who qualify for severance are employees who have worked five or more years at the center and at least 1,000 hours in 2014.
“We understand how difficult transitions can be for employees,” Copeland said. “In particular, we have a lot of employees that have been at the center for a long time, so the recommended severance package would be to provide severance to people . . . not hired by the Y.”
Michael French, a supervisor at the community center, will remain on staff for the YMCA. He said he’s choosing to stay optimistic with the changes.
“You can look at it as a negative or the beginning of something new with better opportunities, and I’m choosing to look at it from that standpoint,” French said. “I think the Y will work hard to build trust with the members with concerns. They’ve expressed how they don’t want to lose members. We’ve encouraged members to call the Y, express your concerns to them. The only way they’ll know is if you speak.”
One center member has expressed his concerns about how the YMCA will use certain spaces. Merrill Watt, a member for five years, has a particular stake in a room that is used by both center members and non-members.
“I’m retired . . . and of course I’ve met other people, mostly retired, and after we finish exercising we go to the North Kansas City Parks and Rec room,” Watt said.
He mentioned that a number of groups use the room, including a Girl Scout group, chess players’ group, his current events group and others.
“The information that is seeping out is that the Parks and Rec room will be closed down, and no one knows where (we) will go.”
Oxler said that the YMCA does plan to use the space in some form.
“At this point it’s undecided how exactly that space will be used, but the plan is to use it for additional programs.”
The Parks and Rec Department itself will also need to relocate. According to the partnership agreement, it will need to find a new space by May 31.
“We don’t know what that space will be, whether it’s in the building or somewhere else,” Oxler said. “The Y is really willing to work with them and be flexible. We’ll continue to evaluate and do what’s best for everyone involved.”
Kaywan Qaradagi, an “off and on” member of the gym, said his first question was whether the price would go up.
Community center members, or those who join before Jan. 31, will be locked into their rates until the end of 2015. After that the YMCA will shift them over to one of its plans.
The YMCA has a sliding membership rate based on an individual’s income and expenses. Its current individual rate of $52 per month without financial assistance includes access to all Greater Kansas City YMCA gyms, as do all of their plans. Community center adults currently pay $31 per month.
Amy Guzman has been at the North Kansas City Community Center for about three years. Although she did express concern about the rate increase, she said she’s most concerned about losing the sense of community.
“Everybody here is great, and it’s going to be like joining a new place,” Guzman said. “The other day the parking lot was so packed, and you’re bringing a whole new club in here. There will be waits for things. It’s got a good clientele now. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
The Vivion Road Family YMCA set its closing date as Dec. 28. On Thursday, the community center will officially become the North Kansas City YMCA.
After Thursday, any YMCA member can visit the North Kansas City center. It will be the largest YMCA building in the area at 96,000 square feet, more than five times as large as the Vivion Road Family YMCA.