The 99-year-old Eighth Street YMCA in downtown Kansas City, Kan., is on the closing list of the YMCA.
The YMCA made the announcement in the early morning hours Tuesday in a news release sent to the media. The closing is part of a plan that includes building a new YMCA in downtown Kansas City, Mo., and closing YMCAs in Independence and Raytown, according to the news release.
Located at 900 N. 8th St., the downtown Kansas City, Kan., YMCA has been a fixture downtown since 1914. The last day of operations will be April 12, according to the news release. Members may transfer to another YMCA, according to the announcement.
David Byrd, Greater Kansas City YMCA CEO and president, said this morning that during the past 18 months to two years, the YMCA has discovered a lot of interest for a facility in eastern Kansas City, Kan., but not enough support for fundraising.
He said that the Eighth Street Y has been constantly losing members, plus it has hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred maintenance costs needed at the building. The YMCA would rather look at a new building there than invest in the old building over the long term, he said.
The YMCA participated in conversations with 15 to 20 leaders in the community, but no one group or individual stepped forward to say they’re willing to build a new YMCA in Kansas City, Kan., at this time, he said. He described the conversations with the Unified Government as “very supportive” and hoped they would continue talking over the next several weeks and months.
A new YMCA building would be expected to cost from $15 million to $18 million for a typical 40,000 to 45,000-square-foot building, he added.
While the closings are scheduled April 12, “if somebody stepped up and wanted to have a conversation with us, we would welcome that,” Byrd said. He said the YMCA would not want to keep the Eighth Street building open, but it would be interested in building a new facility.
Supporters of the Eighth Street YMCA have started a Facebook page to save the facility.
Don Taylor, an attorney who works near the Eighth Street YMCA, said he has gone there nearly every business day since 1990 to exercise. "I think it's horrible," he said about the closing.
"I think it's a huge loss to the city," Taylor said. "Today, everybody's walking around there like it's a funeral."
He said members received a letter in the mail today telling them they could go to the nearest YMCA facility. He described the Y's attendance as "very vibrant." He sees 30 to 40 cars there every evening, and there are people using it in the mornings and at lunchtime, as well.
People of all ages, all walks of life are members there, and they all get along, he added.
"It's a sad day for the downtown community," he said.
“We were surprised to hear it was going to close in April,” said Ed Linnebur, executive director of the Downtown Shareholders. “Certainly it’s a great amenity and we were hoping to see even greater services this summer for kids.”
He said the downtown Y had a summer soccer program for youths.
Linnebur said he would hope there would be an option to save the Y downtown, but it comes down to dollars and cents. "It’s always a tough decision to make. I’m sure the YMCA people have reasons for what they’re doing,” he said.
“I just wish we could figure out a way to keep them in our downtown and have a game plan in the future,” Linnebur said. “But they’re facing the same financial challenges everyone else is. It has more to do with finances than with it being in our downtown.
"I'm hoping some others will come to the table to help,” Linnebur said. Maybe a strategy could be developed of how to offer healthy options and continue to have a resource in the downtown Kansas City, Kan., area, he said.
Cindy Cash, president of the Kansas City, Kan., Area Chamber of Commerce, said she had been aware of the conversations about a new downtown YMCA building.
“I’m very sad to see the 8th Street Y close,” Cash said. Many people have been working on a solution that would allow the Y to continue to provide services downtown, she said.
“We’re going to have to determine if we want a Y, and we as a community are going to have to figure out how to make it happen,” she said. “I know people are working on it and will continue to work on it.”
Bill Hutton, who is on the YMCA board, said he was like everyone else, “extremely disappointed” with the closing.
“Now the focus is on trying to convince the UG to help us start a capital campaign for the Y downtown,” Hutton said. “There’s no way without a public-private partnership that we could ever build a new Y in KCK.” Outside funding is needed, he said.
For the Providence-Ball Center YMCA at 86th and Parallel, the UG contributed $500,000 to the $6 million facility several years ago, he said. The Bonner Springs YMCA is a partnership with the Bonner Springs school district.
“If the UG would pledge to support a new YMCA building, then we could talk about what to do with the current facility in the interim,” he said. Anything done with the current facility would be strictly a stopgap measure, he added.
Hutton said the downtown YMCA is still well used by members. Also, he said it is an inclusive facility, meaning anyone can come in, and use the facility. There are memberships that are open to everyone, and they have a sliding scale according to a person’s income. All the members are treated the same regardless of how much they pay, he said. There are not many places in the metropolitan area that offer the same openness.
Hutton remembers going to the Eighth Street Y when he was 5 years old, and he has been going there 53 years.
“My personal opinion is something may not happen immediately, but I hold out a great deal of hope that ultimately we’ll get something done that will benefit all of Wyandotte County, including downtowners,” he said.
While closing the Eighth Street YMCA in Kansas City, Kan., and other YMCA facilities in Independence, Mo., and Raytown, Mo., the YMCA announced today it would build a new YMCA in downtown Kansas City, Mo., at 10th and Grand.
Besides the new Kansas City, Mo., facility, the YMCA announced it would renovate its Linwood, Kan., and Atchison, Kan., facilities.
In the news release, the YMCA cited market demand, fundraising feasibility research and analysis that had revealed community philanthropic support for the three sites that are being built or renovated.
The YMCA has 17 facilities in the Kansas City area, including two Wyandotte County locations on the west side of the community, one at 86th and Parallel Parkway, and another at Bonner Springs.