As it has with other communities, the YMCA of Central Ohio is talking with Grove City officials about the potential mutual benefits of a partnership.
The YMCA approached the city about a year ago to start a conversation about how the two could work together on a plan to address recreational issues both are facing, said Kim Conrad, Grove City’s parks and recreation director.
“We’re in very preliminary discussions, and we’re a long way from finalizing any kind of plan,” Conrad said.
The YMCA is “bursting at the seams” at its branch, 3600 Discovery Drive in Fryer Park, Conrad said, and many city residents have expressed a desire for a community center.
“We are right at our capacity in Grove City,” said Brandi Braun, chief strategy officer for the YMCA of Central Ohio.
The Grove City YMCA has about 12,000 members with daily attendance of about 11,000 visitors, she said.
Part of what defines “at capacity” are the results of member surveys, Braun said.
When people decide to cancel their memberships, reasons often given include a concern about the number of people who might be using the facility at peak times, a high demand for parking, the availability of equipment and full classes, she said.
“That’s a good problem to have,” Braun said, but the facility’s popularity can make some people hesitant to join.
“We’re interested in exploring all kinds of options, which could include expanding the current building or constructing a new facility,” Braun said.
In a sense, the YMCA already has a partnership with the city, Braun said.
The organization leases the property at Fryer Park from the city, she said.
The Grove City YMCA was built in 2002 and has a floor area of 44,400 square feet, not including the Ohio State University Sports Medicine Rehabilitation facility.
The YMCA also operates the Vaughn E. Hairston branch at 3500 First Ave. in Urbancrest.
Models for what a potential expanded partnership between Grove City and the YMCA could encompass are in the new branches that recently opened in Whitehall and Reynoldsburg, Braun said.
The Community Park YMCA opened in November 2019 at Whitehall Community Park, 402 N. Hamilton Road.
Whitehall paid for the $6.5 million construction of the facility and the branch’s location within a city park, but the YMCA funded the interior furnishings and equipment and is funding the branch’s operating costs.
The Reynoldsburg Community Center YMCA, which opened in January at 1470 Davidson Drive, is a partnership among the city, the YMCA and OhioHealth, Braun said. The city owns the land and building, and the YMCA and OhioHealth lease the space.
In arrangements like that, the city has representation on an advisory committee so it has a voice in helping to determine the kind of programs, activities and services that are offered at the branch, she said.
The YMCA of Central Ohio has invited Grove City officials to tour the Reynoldsburg branch, Conrad said.
The concept of a community center has been long discussed in Grove City, Conrad said.
“Every two years when we do the community attitudes survey, our residents mention a community center as being of the top four or five projects they consider as the highest priority, along with projects like a higher-learning center and building a performing-arts center,” she said.
The city hired ms consultants in 2012 as the lead firm in conducting a community center feasibility study, Conrad said.
The study estimated the range of likely costs for the general portion of the community center would be $21 million to $30 million, with additional costs for an aquatics center projected at $5.7 million to $7.5 million, she said.
“And that was just the construction costs,” Conrad said. “It didn’t include the annual cost of operating the facility.”
Those figures would be higher in 2020 and beyond due to inflation, she said.
The study included a community survey regarding the feasibility of building a new indoor community center, as well as other parks and recreation system improvements conducted by Leisure Vision.
A six-page survey was mailed to a random sample of 1,500 households, and households also were given the option of completing the survey by phone.
Out of 366 surveys completed, results showed that 42% of the households indicated they would visit a new community center several times a week if it had the features they most preferred.
Adults indicated the features they most likely would use were an aquatics/swimming center, 44%; weight room/cardiovascular equipment area, 41%; indoor running/walking track, 37%; and aerobics/fitness/dance space, 22%.
Youth identified an aquatics/swimming center, multipurpose courts for basketball and volleyball, a weight room/cardiovascular equipment area and an indoor field house as their most desired elements.
There is strong interest for a community center, but the question of how a facility would be funded would have to be determined before any plan could proceed, Conrad said.