YMCA,Memorial plan new gym

Would be built near Enos Park

This story has been updated to include comments from YMCA.

The Springfield YMCA is in discussions with Memorial Medical Center to build a new downtown facility that would be closer to the hospital than the current location on the 700 block of South Fourth Street.

Negotiations are preliminary. Under the plan, Memorial would supply land at the intersection of Fourth and Carpenter streets, multiple sources said, and the current YMCA building would be deeded to the Dana Thomas House Foundation, the private nonprofit organization that supports the nearby historic home that's owned by the state.

Officials from the Dana Thomas House Foundation could not be reached for comment. Angie Sowle, YMCA chief executive officer, characterized the proposal as "very preliminary." The only firm decision made so far, she said, is that the Y should build a new facility in the downtown area. The current location opened 55 years ago.

"Unfortunately, it's true with these old buildings: They're hard to renovate and keep up," Sowle said.

Sowle confirmed that the YMCA has been looking at land near the intersection of Fourth and Carpenter streets, but no decision has been made about a new site. "We're committed to staying in the downtown area," Sowle said. "Really, honestly, other than that, there's been no firm decision."

Edgar Curtis, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health Systems, declined to discuss the plan in detail.

“Here’s what I’ll tell you: I don’t want to trump the Y trustees,” Curtis said. “It’s their project, not our project.”

Ward 5 Ald. Andrew Proctor said that Mayor Jim Langfelder mentioned the proposal to him last week during a meeting on budget matters. The new facility would be built in Proctor’s ward. Proctor said he has no details on the plan and did not know whether the project would require tax increment financing or other public funds.

“I have very few details other than what the mayor briefly told me about,” Proctor said. “I think it would be a great thing for the neighborhood.”

While no decisions have been made about building size or features, Sowle said the YMCA is committed to having a pool for swimming lessons and expects to have sufficient space for lap swimming, although the new pool might not be as large as the existing eight-lane pool. The organization is hoping for a building that is at least as large as the Kerasotes facility on the west end of town.

"In the end, it comes down to what we can afford to build and provide the community," Sowle said.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.


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