Vision 2020: City-YMCA partnership on rec center makes sense

Published 12:36 pm Sunday, January 31, 2016

By Greg Siems

Vision 2020 director

It goes without saying that all important community projects require collaboration. Many different organizations can work together to achieve what couldn’t be accomplished individually. In Austin’s case, we are on the cusp of building a new community recreation center, which will be the product of a partnership between the City of Austin and the YMCA.

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This partnership reflects a growing trend across Minnesota (and the entire country) of cities teaming up with “Y”s to create new, exciting, and well-managed community recreation facilities. Part of the Vision 2020 Community Recreation Center committee’s background work involved exploring facilities like this, including tours and conversations with folks in Andover and Marshall, Minnesota, and Indianola, Iowa. Marion, Iowa is also pursuing a very similar project, which arose out of their own Vision 2020-like process, called “Imagine8.”

The precedents for this type of collaboration are well established, and they make sense on many levels. For one, many cities might not have the know-how or financial means to manage their own recreation center. That is where an organization like the YMCA, which has over a century of experience operating recreational facilities, can play an incredibly beneficial role in creating a community asset that otherwise might not be possible.

The proposal on the table for Austin would follow the example of these other successful community partnerships. The YMCA will do what it does best and manage the recreational side of things. The City, for its part, would own the facility and contribute a relatively small amount to its ongoing operation and upkeep. Community members would have access to certain recreational amenities for a reduced rate, and other aspects of the facility – which could include a Youth Activity Center, multi-purpose space, and meeting rooms – will be available for everyone to use. This will truly be a community facility and far more than “just a new Y.”

Another important question is what would happen to the YMCA’s current facility. We believe that it can easily be repurposed or sold for another use once the Y moves into the new building. It is in a great location and has plenty of space that would be attractive to many different types of organizations. The new rec center will be an incredible asset in its own right, while opening up another opportunity that others could take advantage of.

Finally, we hope every citizen of Austin will see the great value they get in return for the City’s investment. The proposed plan would not require any new taxes to fund the City’s contribution to the new community rec center —w it would all come out of the existing budget. Furthermore, no public money would be required to construct this state-of-the-art facility, thanks to generous pledges from the Hormel Foundation, local businesses, and future donations from individuals. By all accounts this recreation center is a fantastic deal for the community, and it will be the product of so many different people working together to achieve something great.