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Communities to the south, north seek YMCA branches


With three children who enjoy participating in sports, Jennifer Richards would love to have a place for them to be able to go to swim, shoot baskets or simply hang out with their friends and play Foosball.

However, that type of sports and recreation facility doesn’t exist in Indianola — yet. For about the past year, Richards, a lifelong resident of the city, has led a committee that’s working toward a public-private partnership to establish a YMCA branch for Warren County residents.

“A Y would be a huge boon to Indianola, as far as making a good place to live an even better place to live,” said Richards, who hopes that her two youngest children, now 11 and 15, will be able to use the facility.

Indianola is one of two communities currently pursuing a public-private partnership with the YMCA of Greater Des Moines to establish a branch. Urbandale is also in the process of drawing up a 28E agreement to build a YMCA branch next to a new elementary school planned at the corner of 128th Street and Aurora Avenue.

The Y, which now has more than 50,000 members, added its eighth branch last year when it acquired the Ames student branch already operating at Iowa State University. It also has several expansions in the works or completed, said Vernon Delpesce, the organization’s president and CEO.

“Each of our branches is experiencing growth, with the most explosive growth in Waukee,” he said. “Our Waukee branch is only 3 years old, and it’s already too small; we’re already planning to expand that.”

In the past year the YMCA has expanded both its Walnut Creek and Ankeny branches, and there are plans to expand the Riverfront Y to coincide with the development of the Principal Riverwalk. Additionally, the organization intends to add a swimming pool at the South Suburban branch.

The idea of building and operating branches as public-private partnerships is not a new concept for the organization. The Greater Des Moines Y was one of the first in the country to partner with a school district when it built the Ankeny branch in 1991, Delpesce said. Similarly, the John R. Grubb branch at 14th Street and College Avenue is a partnership with the city of Des Moines.

In Indianola’s case, the city is considering three financing options for raising approximately $4 million for the 45,000-square-foot facility, which has an estimated price tag of $6 millon. Another $1 million would be raised from Warren County residents, with the remaining $1 million coming from the Y’s capital development fund. A site is under consideration on South 15th Street across from Indianola Middle School. The city-owned building would house the city’s parks and recreation department, but the Y would be responsible for funding its programs’ operating expenses.

For Urbandale, which is looking at an $8.5 million building, an agreement is still being worked out between the city, the school district and the Y, said Don Gloo, Urbandale assistant city manager.

“The object would be that they would be located right next to each other, so there would be some synergies there,” he said. “I think all three parties would benefit from having that co-location.”

As with Indianola, Urbandale’s project began with an idea from a citizens’ committee. Though the committee hasn’t been active while the city has been negotiating the agreement, it will step back in once a draft has been finalized, Gloo said.

Is there a deadline for getting the project built?

“Not at this time,” Gloo said. “The only direction they’ve given to us is that they want to make sure the agreement is negotiated and that everyone is satisfied with it at the staff level. … It would be desirable to have them constructed at the same time, but more importantly we want to have the agreements upfront, and that’s what we have to work out first.”

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