YMCA coming to Leander?

In the fall the YMCA began a study, which is expected to be complete by the beginning of February, to determine whether a Leander facility is viable. The city could decide to include the project in a May bond election.

In the fall the YMCA began a study, which is expected to be complete by the beginning of February, to determine whether a Leander facility is viable. The city could decide to include the project in a May bond election.

A market study is underway to determine whether a YMCA facility could be built in Leander.


YMCA of Greater Williamson County, Leander ISD, Austin Community College and the city of Leander are possible partners for the potential facility, and a final report of the study’s findings is expected to be complete by February, Leander City Manager Kent Cagle said.


Two sites are being considered for the potential facility: a property owned by LISD at Halsey Drive and San Gabriel Parkway, and the site of the future ACC Leander campus, which is located near Capital Metro’s Leander Station Park & Ride at Toll 183A.


The city would bear the cost to build the facility, and the YMCA would be responsible for cost of its operations and maintenance costs, Cagle said. The city would fund construction by calling a bond election and asking voters to approve issuing debt.


“Although the council has not called a [bond] election, we expect there will be a May election,” Cagle said. “The bond committee has been in a difficult situation because they don’t have the report from [the market study], so we don’t have the size or a true cost [of a YMCA].”


Council has until Feb. 18 to call the election, and the city’s bond committee is expected to deliver its recommendations for projects by the end of January. The bond committee has completed its work on ranking other projects—such as parks and recreation and transportation—for a bond package recommendation, Cagle said, and will present recommendations to council.



Studying Leander


Atlanta, Georgia-based FourSquare Market Research Inc., the firm hired by the YMCA to conduct the study, has completed more than 700 studies for YMCAs and nonprofits throughout the U.S., according to FourSquare’s proposal, which was approved by Jeff Andresen, YMCA of Greater Williamson County CEO, on Nov. 23.


The study includes a phone survey of 600-800 Leander residents, including prospective YMCA members such as those from ACC students and faculty, according to FourSquare documents. The phone survey includes questions about whether a Leander facility would be used, and if so, what types of programs potential members would want as well as what membership rate would be appealing.


FourSquare is also assessing what the effect could be on the YMCA’s Twin Lakes facility in Cedar Park if a Leander location opened.


After the study is complete, FourSquare will collect and analyze all findings and present a final report, which  will include the estimated number of households that would plan to join the facility, anticipated revenue generated from annual new membership, recommendations for facility developments, and suggestions for programs and pricing strategies.



Partnership opportunities


Cori Cunningham Risener, vice president of financial development and marketing for the YMCA of Greater Williamson County, said partnerships with cities are not new to the YMCA. The YMCA worked with the cities of Hutto and Austin to build facilities, and Cunningham Risener said the partnerships have had great financial and community benefits.[polldaddy poll=9278425]


“The Y is very excited, and partnerships are a hallmark of what we do because we want to serve the community just like the city does,” Cunningham Risener said. “Our missions are the same.”


In Leander’s case, the city approached the YMCA about a possible facility, she said. Emerging populations, such as those in the Leander and Liberty Hill areas, tend to want recreational facilities before cities are done growing, she said.


“That’s why these partnerships are so crucial,” she said. “It’s going to be hard-pressed for any one entity to [build] on its own and operate it efficiently. … Figuring out how we can do that now, even though the population is not all there yet, that’s why these partnerships are so awesome because it gives the community what they want, and they are not having to wait 10 years for the population to [grow].”


If a facility were to be built in Leander, Cunningham Risener said the YMCA would work with prospective members for financial assistance for memberships.  Nonmembers would also be able to pay a fee to use the YMCA facility for one day.


Cagle said sharing the cost burden with another agency, as well as not having to use taxes as a way to provide residents with a recreation center, are important qualities for a partnership for the city.


“Right now we have ACC that wants to be a partner, so that makes [a YMCA facility] very attractive, although we have not gotten to the point where we know exactly what that partnership looks like financially,” Cagle said. “Obviously they would be bringing a site to the table and we would be bringing a building, but beyond that, it has not been worked out.”



Possible partner support


In the fall, City Council, ACC and LISD’s board of trustees discussed the feasibility study at their respective meetings. However, no entity is an official partner of the YMCA yet.


“The idea of building a [YMCA] is great,” LISD Superintendent Bret Champion said at the Nov. 19 board meeting. “[But] we are a long ways from a direct partnership.”


LISD’s role in the process is to decide whether to reach consensus about the district participating in the study and also whether to allow the YMCA to “list one potential location on the LISD property,” according to board documents. Veronica Sopher, LISD assistant superintendent of community and government relations, said the board will be provided with an overview of the information gathered by district staffers from the YMCA about the partnership after meetings between the agencies conclude.


Ben Ferell, ACC executive vice president of campus planning & operations,  said the college’s primary interest in the project is the potential for the YMCA to provide child care for children of ACC students and faculty. ACC’s architects are also identifying specific potential locations on ACC’s future Leander campus for a YMCA, he said.


“I don’t think there is any question that there is a demand [for a YMCA],” Cagle said. “I know if it’s not now, it won’t be long before there is enough [demand] at the rate of growth we are having.”

By Lyndsey Taylor
After graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lyndsey began working as a reporter for the Northwest Austin edition of Community Impact Newspaper in 2012. During her time as a reporter, she has covered Round Rock ISD, health care in the Austin metro area and Austin Community College. She was promoted to editor of the Cedar Park| Leander edition in 2015 and covers city and education news, including Leander ISD.


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