The construction and inconvenience are coming to an end as the first of two big sales-tax funded expansions at Platte County community centers is completed.
The Platte County Community Center South in Parkville, which operates in partnership with the YMCA, has received a nearly $8.4 million upgrade. Improvements include new workout spaces, enhancements to the childcare facility, a dedicated lap pool and a test kitchen. The parking lot also got a much needed expansion.
“We stay so busy that parking is always at a premium. So, being able to add 100 spots is really going to help,” says Garry Linn, district vice president for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.
Inside, a new four-lane lap pool and diving well means swimmers won’t have to compete for lane time with aquatic classes. The center also plans to bring in spring board diving programs and a competitive swim team.
One innovative addition in the expansion is a test kitchen. It is a brand new feature for local YMCAs that can provide the opportunity to add more nutrition and dietary information to programming.
The addition of a 3,000-square-foot workout space allows the facility to offer a wider range of classes. “No matter what time you come to the facility, we will have a high, moderate and low impact class specifically going on,” says Linn.
The larger space also means the center will not have to limit enrollment in popular classes. A room dedicated to spin classes is now in place as well. Spin classes have grown steadily in popularity over the last five years.
“It’s important that we continue to stay relevant. Our expansion allows us to continue to stay relevant and we constantly need to think about how we are going to serve all five generations in our facilities every day,” says Linn.
The community center South and the Platte County Community Center North, were constructed in 2004 with funds from a half-cent county sales tax dedicated to parks and stormwater. There were no community centers of their type in Platte County when the facilities were built, and they are still the only two.
While expansions to the centers were planned from the beginning, they have come sooner than expected because usage and popularity of the buildings have greatly exceeded predictions. A normal participation level for this kind of center would be between 6 to 7 percent of the total population. The Platte County participation numbers are more than double that.
“We built what the people wanted, and I firmly believe the Platte County population wants to be fit and healthy. Our members see the value of keeping their families and themselves fit,” says Platte County Parks and Recreation director Brian Nowonty.
The facilities have always run in a unique public/private partnership between the YMCA of Greater Kansas City and Platte County Parks and Recreation. Platte County built and owns the building, paid for in tax dollars, but the YMCA of Greater Kansas City operates the facility and provides programming.
Nowotny says Platte County residents get several benefits from having the YMCA run the facilities. The YMCA partnership eliminates the need for the county to manage about 300 extra employees. It also gives residents access to all the other YMCA facilities in the area. “They are great at what they do. They really bring cutting edge services to our citizens,” says Nowotny.
While taxpayers are footing the bill for expansion costs, all the operating expenses are paid for by revenues from the facility. The YMCA also agrees to pay for any losses, but the success of the facilities has been greater than expected and there has not been an operation year loss. Every dollar earned by the facility goes back into the facilities. “We wouldn’t be expanding if things weren’t going incredibly well,” says Linn.
The dedicated Platte County parks and stormwater sales tax brings in about $7 million a year. Ninety percent of that money is designated for Parks and Recreation. The rest goes towards the county’s stormwater management program.
Many capital improvement projects have been paid for by park sales tax funds in addition to the Community Centers. Those include the Line Creek Trail, Missouri Riverfront Trail, Tiffany Hills Park, the Springs Aquatics Center, and the new Platte Landing Park in Parkville, which will open later this summer.
Voters passed an extension of the sales tax in 2009 to help fund the expansions. That tax was not collected until 2011. Construction started a little over a year ago.
A $13.9 million improvement to the Platte County Community Center North is scheduled for completion in late July. Upgrades there will make it nearly the same size as the south community center. They include the addition of an eight-lane competitive pool, a full-sized gymnasium and meeting space.