Cassville YMCA seeks to double or triple size

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Dove Haney, center executive for the Cassville YMCA, holds up plans for a newly-designed kids zone and an outdoor playground, one of many plans on a list to expand the center, possibly in 2016. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Community input fuels upcoming expansion project

The Cassville YMCA has been serving the community with a variety of wellness programs and promoting healthy living since 2007, but after eight years, the center and its programs are bursting at the seams, and recent community surveys to obtain feedback were highly favorable in support of expanding the facility.

"We would like to double or triple the size of the center," said Dove Haney, center executive for the facility. "There is a definite need for Cassville."

The building itself was built around 2002, and at that time, was not a YMCA.

"It was originally the gymnastics center," Haney said. "We had probably 115-120 girls. The city used to run a gymnastics program. Then in 2006, we had a group approach the Ozarks Regional YMCA to see if we could get a YMCA here, but they told us our city wasn't big enough to have one. So it started as a program center.

"When the YMCA did come in, they downsized the gymnastics to just a tumbling program. By that time, gymnastics had declined because we had lost our coach, and the building was being underutilized. It was only used by 60 girls three hours a day, so the YMCA made a decision to open it to a full-service center. In 2007, we did a capital project campaign to raise money for equipment."

Community meeting were held in August, then November, to collect public input from members and non-members alike on current and future activities and services area residents would like to see.

In response, more than 180 people called, emailed or attended the meeting to express their opinions.

"We asked what services they currently used most, what changes or features they would like to see, and what would add value to the services they have," Haney said.

Based on the overwhelming response to the community meetings and surveys, Haney believes there is a clear need for an expansion in order to better serve the needs of the community.

"We have outgrown this place," she said. "It is packed to the max."

Haney said space is especially a challenge at certain times of the day, such as evenings when adults come to workout, as the workout and child services areas are contained in one large room. Another problem is that during summer programs, children are playing, but seniors are also trying to use the tumbling area for classes. So, having separate areas for adults and children was listed as a top priority on the surveys.

"In the evening times, you get 60 kids in here, plus another 50 adults trying to work out," Haney said. "It would also be better for seniors because they can't all walk up the stairs to classes, and when kids are here for summer camp it's a real conflict."

With about 63 percent of memberships being family memberships, Haney said she wants to continue to focus on families, but offer plenty of activities for children.

"We're very much geared toward families," she said. "We want to make it fun for kids, too. We'd like to have activities inside linked to an outside play area as well."

One of the most requested items on the surveys was a gym where members could play games like basketball, racquetball, volleyball and pickle ball. A walking track was also high on the list, along with an indoor pool, spinning rooms and a smoothie and supplement bar.

Other items included showers, saunas, a locker room, an expanded children's area and game room.

"The saunas had more votes than the racquetball and spin rooms," said Haney, who is looking at the possibility of adding infrared saunas, which are known for their ability to promote sweating and detoxing of the body.

"Enlarging the facility would help us expand a lot of our programs," Haney said. "I'd also like to have a lobby where people can come sit and have a cup of coffee while kids are playing, read or book, or just do homework. The coffee is always free. People definitely said they want to 'keep the free coffee.'"

A community or event room is also being considered.

"It was not voted on, but we plan to have a community room that would be used for birthdays, reunions, overflow for classes and just for anytime the community needs a room to use for meetings," Haney said. "It could also be used for potlucks or things like a pancake breakfast. We would have the facility to offer up to the community.

"We could also do Friday movie nights, a bounce house, and family fun nights. We could do so much. And, we'll need an actual kitchen because in the summer time, we feed 35 kids. Right now, all we have is a microwave and two toasters."

The expansion plan is still in the works, but if everything goes as Haney hopes, there will be a capital project campaign in 2016, with the help of community partners, to raise money for a new facility and new equipment, and the center will apply for grants as well.

"The board has yet to decide," Haney said. "We should know more by January."

The YMCA now offers workout equipment, a tumbling area, games, sports programs, group exercise classes, child watch and after-school child care. The changes that are made, including equipment, activities, and facility features such as showers, locker rooms and saunas, will ultimately be based on the feedback taken from the community surveys.

Haney is not certain where the new facility will be located, but indicated being very pleased with the community's response and interest in an expansion, which confirmed the need for a bigger facility.

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