07/20/08 — YMCA director: City has need for both facilities

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YMCA director: City has need for both facilities

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on July 20, 2008 1:25 PM

So, with a $12.3 million Community Recreation Center in the works, will Goldsboro residents still need a YMCA?

Yes, says Family Y director and Recreation Center Committee member John Richards.

"The recreation center is going to be a good compliment to this facility," he said. "It will offer different things than we have here."

The committee, he said, made sure of that.

"We didn't want to duplicate what was already in Goldsboro," he said.

"We wanted something more for families."

One of the main differences begins in the pool.

"The pool there is going to be a more family-oriented pool," Richards said. "They have the zero-entrance part and the splash area."

The main pool at the YMCA, which has eight lanes and is 50 meters long, he added, is mostly for competition. The facility normally holds about 10 YMCA meets and six high school meets a year. The YMCA's other pool -- a five-lane, 25-yard warm water pool -- is used primarily for lessons.

Goldsboro's new facility will also have items the YMCA doesn't, like a video game area that also promotes exercise -- called an Exergym, a fenced-off sun deck area and a memorial fountain dedicated to Wayne County veterans.

But what about the multi-million-dollar cost for such a facility?

Richards said he doesn't believe $12.3 million is too high. He thinks it's "about right."

The Family Y cost $6 million to build in three phases over a 14-year period, but the bulk of that -- the $4 million first phase -- was built in 1983.

But that was when it was a lot cheaper to build, he said.

If the YMCA had to be rebuilt today in its entirety, Richards said the facility's insurance agent estimated that it would cost about $30 million.

"For what (the committee) has in the recreation center, I don't think you could build it for much less," he said.

He doesn't think it's a good idea to take anything out either.

"If you take things out, then it won't be used as much," he said.

Building the recreation facility in phases, like the YMCA, was one of the options that the committee thought about early on, he said, but he doesn't believe that's the best way to go.

"You could phase the project, but the total money you'd spend on the project would be much more that way," he said. "You would come out better at the end to just build it all now."

But does he feel that the facility will be built in the right place?

Yes. In fact, he said, the location of the recreation center is a major perk.

"Having the community building downtown will help those who might have transportation issues and can't easily get to our facility (YMCA). I think it will serve the folks well who live in the downtown area," he said.

The Family Y currently serves a little more than 9,000 people, Richards said, in more than 110,000 square feet.

And the demographics of the people the Y serves "almost mirror that of the community," he said.

"We serve people of every socioeconomic class and race."

And for those who can't quite afford the $30 individual or the $53 family basic memberships, financial assistance is available.

"For some, it can be as low as $10 for individuals and $20 for families," he said. "We base financial assistance on the size and income of the family."

Richards said the new Community Recreation Center will benefit everyone in the city, just as the YMCA does.

"We feel that we provide access to anybody in the community," he said. "When I came to the Y in 1986, membership wasn't so diverse. Over the years, it has changed. When we opened, people thought we were a rich white country club. We are far from that. This facility is here for every single person in the community. I don't see any difference in the recreation center."

But, Richards said he isn't free from concerns about the facility.

He isn't sure if city officials quite know the financial burden the annual operating expenses will be.

"That piece of the puzzle has to be grasped," he said.

For the YMCA, that number is about $2.6 million a year.

The expense should be less for the recreation center, Richards said, partly because of the increased programming the Family Y has that the recreation center won't, like preschool, and partly because the facility will only be about half as large.

"They also won't have to pay as many lifeguards, and their heating and air systems and water and sewer will be less," he said.

Although both facilities will be used for the same reason -- exercise -- Richards doesn't believe one will be used more than the other.

He hopes both will stay full.

"It gets very crowded here sometimes," he said, with the highest number of people coming from 8 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. "There are times when we could easily overflow into that facility. And during the summer, it's busy all day long."

Preliminary discussions have been made about the city partnering with the Family Y to operate the recreation center once it is open.

And although Richards says that it is still very early for that discussion, he hopes that the partnership goes through.

"I would hope they'd use our expertise," he said. "Running a recreation center is much different than anything else."

There are a number of city-YMCA partnerships that are successful, he said.

"In today's time, it's best to collaborate, and successful communities are looking for partners to help offset some of the costs," he said.

The YMCA currently runs the city's pools at Mina Weil and Peacock parks.

The Family Y doesn't charge Goldsboro for its services. Instead, all of the fees collected go to the YMCA.