Nate Regier had driven by YMCAs before, but he said he didn't fully realize what a facility like that could mean for Newton until he actually stepped inside one of the buildings.
And his first impression was a good one.
"I was amazed," said Regier, who works at Next Element Consulting in Newton. "I've driven by YMCAs so many times and never gone inside. I'm inspired."
Regier was one of the attendees on the Newton Chamber's YMCA preview trip Tuesday evening. The Chamber rented a tour bus and invited business leaders, local government officials and community members to take a trip to Wichita to view several YMCA facilities and get a "sneak peek" at what the proposed Newton YMCA might look like.
"The Wichita YMCAs are kind of a national standard," Todd Tangeman with Newton Medical Center said. "... Today's trip is really just to help us capture the vision of what we can expect to see in Newton in the future."
Newton's proposed YMCA will be on the Newton Medical Center campus and will be about 60,000 square feet. It will cost about $15 million, with the Greater Wichita YMCA contributing $10 million and the community contributing $5 million. No tax dollars will be used for the project.
The first stop on the Chamber's tour was the North branch of the YMCA. The facility is about 75,000 square feet, slightly larger than the proposed Newton facility (the average YMCA facility is about 40,000 square feet). The group also had a chance to tour the 110,000 square foot Downtown branch of the YMCA.
Dennis Schoenebeck and staff with the Wichita YMCA organization took time to answer questions after the tours and shared how they thought a YMCA might benefit Newton.
Schoenebeck said the concept of the Wichita YMCA is about more than just fitness — it's meant to provide a social space where people can come to meet friends and build a sense of community. The YMCA offers variable rates, so people of a variety of income levels can participate.
So far, about $1.05 million has been raised in the community for a Newton YMCA. Schoenebeck said the facility would take about 14 to 16 months to construct once funds have been raised.
Nate Regier said one of the things that impressed him about the tour was seeing the diversity of the users at the YMCA. He was excited to see people from a variety of ages and backgrounds using a common space.
If the YMCA does construct a facility in Newton, he said he hoped retirement communities would be able to bus residents to the YMCA, to give seniors an opportunity to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
He encourages people in the community to consider donating to the YMCA fund and hopes his business will one day be able to sponsor families who may not be able to afford a membership.
Jim Schwarzenberger, executive director of the Newton Chamber, thanked those who went on the tour. He said supporting the YMCA ties in with the Chamber's vision to promote growth in the community.
"We consider this a rare opportunity to help fulfill that mission in our community," said Schwarzenberger. "... We're establishing a great facility in Newton, Kansas."