Some questions still need to be answered, and some cannot be answered yet, but some were at the meeting between the YMCA of Wichita and governing bodies of Newton Tuesday night. Dennis Schoenebeck of the Greater Wichita YMCA spoke to the Newton city commission, school board and recreation commission at length about plans for the area.
City Commissioner Glen Davis said it seemed there is still an impasse after the meeting, but he was encouraged that information was given.
"The Recreation Commission needs to sit down with the YMCA," he said. He added that it might be good to let the rec commission go ahead with its plans for expansion.
The Recreation Commission has had plans in the works for an expansion and refurbishing program for years, but that has been on hold until they know for sure about the YMCA coming to Newton.
The YMCA will invest $10 million, but the community would have to raise $5 million. The local group has raised about $900,000 so far. After the money is raised it would take more than a year to start building.
Susan Reardon, chairman of the Newton Recreation Commission, said there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
"We really need to know the time frame," she said, adding that they might talk more with the YMCA.
During his presentation Schoenebeck said his organization likes to have partnerships and would work with the recreation commission, as well as the schools and the city.
He didn’t give specifics because he said that would depend on the needs expressed by the YMCA board that would run the local facility.
The local board would be making all the decisions about the YMCA, and they would be the ones to work out agreements on programs with schools or the recreation commission.
"We would look at who has what, who has what resources. I don’t know what that would end up like. That is where local involvement comes in," he said.
Schoenebeck said he expects a Newton facility would be more regional and would draw people from all over the county. It was pointed out in the meeting that there was once a YMCA in Newton, but it closed many years ago.
He said the previous facility was operating on its own and focused only on Newton, and that did not work out as well.
"It is hard for a stand alone facility to make it. Also now there is more emphasis on fitness and health, and that has changed the dynamic of what a YMCA is," he said.
A facility in Newton that is part of the Greater Wichita YMCA would have support of all the other YMCAs and that should make it viable, he said.
Schoenebeck said there would be some duplication of services, but he said the local board could figure out the needs and they could work with the Rec Commission to best serve the community.
He said a 2008 study showed strong support for the idea of a YMCA in Newton, and it also showed interest in it being on the south end of town. He does not believe that will be too much of a problem as most people don’t walk to the Rec Center now.
They use buses to transport people in Wichita. In some cases they bus kids to the YMCA and parents pick them up after school.
This would have to be worked out locally with the local board, he said.
"The assets belong to the community," he said. "The local board would be associated with the larger group, but it is not a franchise. It belongs to the community."
The YMCA is supported largely by membership fees. The normal fee for a family of two adults and two children is $49.90. There is a sliding scale for people with lower income and it can go as low as $15. Individual memberships are much less, and there are scholarships available there as well.
Some YMCAs do better than others financially, so some money they make may go to help other facilities. There is also a fund-raising project each year that raises around $2 million.
A membership fee includes use of all the facilities, and admission to a YMCA anywhere.
There are some special programs that have fees in addition to membership, and members pay a lower fee than non-members. This would be for something like a sports league.
Schoenebeck said he could not guarantee that the regional YMCA would continue to support a YMCA that never made any money or failed to live up to expectations.
But, he said he has been with the organization more than 20 years and has never seen one close.
He was asked if the YMCA would expect money in some form from the schools.
He said there are all kinds of partnerships, but there would be no initial expectation.
Maize High School, for instance, uses the YMCA swimming pools, and the YMCA gets to use their gym in return.
"There is a unique quality in each community. We want local volunteers to have ownership and we give them as much authority as we can as far as making policy," he said.
He said a YMCA in Newton would probably employ about 100 people.
He said the YMCA works with recreation commissions in Maize and Andover. They don’t do that as much in Wichita just because of the city dynamics. He said there had been some problems with El Dorado.
"It just depends on the personalities," he said.
He added that it would be up to the local advisory board – who would be in charge of the local YMCA – to work out details with the city and the recreation commission as to what leagues and so forth would look like.
"The way we approach it is, we look for what is the best interest of the community. How can we serve the most people and have the most impact," he said.