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February 14, 2013

City Council receives final pitch for new YMCA

GREENVILLE — Organizers wanting to bring a combination new YMCA and event center to Greenville made their pitch to the City Council Tuesday to have the proposal placed on the May municipal election ballot.

“We’re very, very positive about this,” said Jerry Ransom, the chairman of the YMCA committee, at the close of the presentation during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Not everyone agreed, as two members from the audience at Tuesday’s meeting spoke out against the idea.

“I don’t think it is the city’s responsibility to help build another building,” offered Tannie Brooks.

Should the Council decide to add the proposition to the May 11 ballot, it would vote do so during the February 26 regular session.

Organizers believe the combined venue, estimated at $15 million, would help both serve the needs of local residents and bring in revenue from hosting conferences, trade shows and more.

The proposal calls for a 70,000 square foot combined facility, with a hotel style lobby, restrooms, porte-cochere, truck service entrance and storage space for tables and chairs.  When used as an events center the gymnasium would seat 600 people at round tables of 10. It would include a triple gym with walking track, climbing wall, indoor recreation and lap pool, wellness center, IT center, teen center and service areas designated exclusively for YMCA partnerships.

Ransom presented the Council with a pro-forma business plan during Tuesday’s meeting.

“That business plan addresses the YMCA only,” he said. “It is conservative.”

The business plan estimated that the YMCA’s membership would double as a result of the new facility.

“There’s no event center revenue or expenses included in those projections,” he said.

Ransom noted that Paris Junior College has expressed interest in hosting regional community college basketball tournaments at the center.

He recommended the Council appoint a building committee to approve any plans for the project, should the proposition be added to the ballot and pass, and also appoint a management committed to prioritize the various agencies who will want to use the facility.

“At some point, somebody’s going to have to make a decision as to what trumps what,” Ransom said.

Ransom explained that private individuals and the Greenville Independent School District had each pledged $100,000 per year toward the operation of the center for the first 10 years, while the Board of Development had pledged $125,000 per year toward the project for the first five years, with an option for another five years.

He explained the center had received endorsements from Hunt Regional Healthcare, the GEUS board, Paris Junior College, L-3, Cytec, and the Helms Hotels Group, which operates the Holiday Inn Express and Best Western hotels in Greenville.

Council member Renee Francey asked what would happen to the more than 50-year old current building, should the new facility be constructed.

Ransom replied that decision would be up to the YMCA board.

“It’s their property,” Ransom said.

When it came time for public comment, Brooks said she believed a new building wasn’t needed and that the existing YMCA facility should still be used.

“They need to take care of that,” Brooks said.

Byron Taylor said the Fletcher Warren Civic Center could have been a suitable event center for Greenville, but it was never built for that purpose.

“That building was designed with two permanently separated rooms,” Taylor said, adding that it should have been built as one great room with adjustable temporary walls. “I think a redesign of the Fletcher Warren Civic Center also ought to be looked at.”

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