The YMCA of Greater Des Moines will move ahead with efforts to purchase the Polk County Convention Complex, the organization’s board decided Tuesday.
The YMCA vote is the latest in a chain of events in which the Polk County Board of Supervisors agreed to transfer ownership of the complex to Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. In exchange for that abandoned facility and $500,000, Wellmark will give the county the deed to the former J.C. Penney building at 222 Fifth Ave.
The former department store building will provide space for some court services.
Wellmark has agreed to donate land adjacent to the complex to the YMCA in order to accommodate its expansion plans.
The YMCA will pay $4.5 million for the complex and hopes to complete the purchase early next year. It will attempt to find a buyer for its current location along the Des Moines River. The site is considered a prime piece of downtown development land.
Plans for the new downtown YMCA tentatively include a 50-meter pool with seating to host major aquatic events, gym and indoor track, racquetball and handball courts, and a wellness center, according to a news release announcing the vote to purchase the complex.
As part of the agreement with Wellmark, the insurer will have the option for naming rights for the new YMCA once it is completed, possibly in late 2014 or early 2015.
“We believe that a new, state-of-the-art YMCA will have a tremendous impact on the downtown community.” Vernon Delpesce, president and CEO of the YMCA, said in a news release announcing the vote.
Also triggering momentum for renewed downtown development has been the recent purchase of the former Allied Insurance Co. building at 700 Fourth St. by Des Moines Redevelopment Co., a nonprofit organized by local business leaders to collect disparate properties and hold them for development.
The group also bought a nearby parking lot, with both purchases underscoring the long-held desire to develop a hotel complex to serve the Iowa Events Center.
The purchases were a first for the redevelopment group.