Joplin YMCA officials announce plans to close the organization's flagship building this July. The Joplin YMCA's executive director says he knows the decision will sadden, even frustrate many of the Joplin organization's 12,000 members. But he says personal feelings must be put aside, in order to concentrate on a successful business.
A 90-year stint inside this historic structure on South Wall Avenue, built in the 1920's, is coming to an end.
"A lot of people who utilize the downtown YMCA, it's their home. It's my home, too. I've been here for 30 years," says Joplin YMCA Executive Director Cookie Estrada.
Estrada says the decision to close the downtown YMCA came after 36 months of studies, meetings, and an analysis of the Joplin market. Membership at the downtown location has declined and is lower than the Y's other location on the south side of town, near Freeman Hospital.
"Unfortunately, the software that we have now, we track our membership under one umbrella. But you can just tell by visibility, or usage. You can go to the South Y, very busy compared to here," says Estrada.
Estrada says most of the downtown Y's patronage comes from elderly members.
"I really liked it"...
"I was upset!"...
And Katherine Funcannon both say they don't know what they will do when the downtown Y closes, leaving only the South Y open. Both have arthritis, and enjoy melting the pain away in warm water at the downtown Y's pool.
"Here, it's 89 to 90"...
Birdsong is talking degrees. Go to the South Y, and pool water gets cooler.
"It's actually more for swimmers," says Funcannon.
Joplin YMCA officials plan on renovating the South Y once the downtown location closes and more financial resources are available. Estrada says the YMCA board members don't see enough potential economic growth near the downtown Y.
"To continue to provide services in this location is difficult because it's not in an area of opportunities," says Estrada.
Estrada says consolidating means ensuring 50 more years of YMCA in Joplin.
"We're the YMCA. We're a community organization. These are just walls," says Estrada.
The downtown location is set to close July first. There are no plans right now from the Joplin YMCA board of what to do with the building. Estrada says the Y doesn't consider the new 24-hour fitness clubs in Joplin as competition. He says the Y offers something unique.
Estrada says all 20 full-time employees and 150 part-time employees of the Joplin-area YMCA's will keep their jobs.
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