For the moment, if you want the YMCA in Lawrence, a disco jukebox still may be your best bet.
Both officials with the YMCA and the city of Lawrence confirmed they met recently to discuss a possible partnership to allow the YMCA to operate a new west Lawrence recreation center that would be built by the city.
But leaders with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department said they still have several questions about what the YMCA would add to the recreation scene that isn’t already offered by the city’s recreation classes and programs.
“We want to evaluate whether there is some value they can offer the we currently aren’t,” said Jana Dawson, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board who met with YMCA officials. “Right now, I haven’t seen anything that will lead us down that path.”
Dawson said Parks and Recreation leaders will ask YMCA officials to put together a more formal written proposal that would summarize the benefits to the community.
David Byrd, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, said the organization definitely has an interest in Lawrence.
“If you look at it, Lawrence probably is one of the largest communities in Kansas without a YMCA,” Byrd said.
Plus, Byrd said Dr. James Naismith’s role in both the history of Lawrence and the YMCA — he was an instructor at a YMCA when he invented the game of basketball — made the city an attractive community for the organization.
“From a legacy standpoint, it is wonderful,” Byrd said.
The YMCA has undertaken several partnerships with other cities, Byrd said. The Kansas City YMCA region operates two recreation centers that are owned by local governments in Platte County, Mo., and the organization is working to finalize a partnership in Ottawa. In Ottawa, a new $8 million center would be built through public fundraising on the Ottawa University campus, but the operations would be run by the YMCA.
Under many of the arrangements, Byrd said, the YMCA takes full responsibility for recreation center operations.
Such an arrangement relieves the city from any responsibility of subsidizing the operations.
But Ernie Shaw, the leader of the city’s parks and recreation department, said some cities are turning to the YMCA because they don’t have a very active city-run recreation program.
Shaw said Lawrence’s program attracts thousands of users a year, and adding the YMCA to the mix could end up reducing the fees the city collects from those programs.
“If you just make this for one center in town, you could end up competing against yourself,” Shaw said.
Shaw, though, said several YMCA facilities are offering wellness classes, which is an area the city wants to expand into. Shaw said he wants to explore whether the YMCA can be a partner in that effort, but he also said the city was talking with Lawrence Memorial Hospital and others who have expertise in the wellness field.
Byrd said he’ll be happy to keep talking with the city.
“We’ll want to take a closer look and see if there are some unmet needs in the city and how we could complement each other rather than compete,” Byrd said.