A new YMCA in Gretna could be years off because of recent renovations to the Sarpy Community YMCA and a new $16 million facility planned for Council Bluffs.
Gretna City Administrator Jeff Kooistra said the idea to build a new branch in Gretna is still alive, but may not be a top priobarity for the Greater Omaha YMCA in light of its Council Bluffs plans and recent improvements to the Sarpy County branch in Papillion.
The Sarpy YMCA will host an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday to celebrate its $30,000 upgrade, which includes a bigger playground and a renovated child care space.
“We're trying to tie everything in to building a healthy lifestyle,” YMCA Group Vice President Josh Whitson said. “If Jonah doesn't want to come to the Y, it makes it very hard for Mom and Dad to come to the Y.”
Gretna has been trying to recruit its own YMCA since 2011, when then-Mayor Sally McGuire and former City Administrator Colleen Lawry began meeting with YMCA officials to discuss a new branch.
Gretna is one of the fastest-growing communities in Nebraska with a 2010 population of more than 4,400. The nearest YMCA is the Armbrust branch, located near 168th and Q Streets.
The city spent $28,000 on a feasibility study to gauge local interest. Months later, Lawry was fired and served jail time on misdemeanor theft charges. McGuire was defeated in a re-election bid.
A survey of 600 households found above-average interest in a new YMCA and a growing population of families with children who worried they weren't active enough. The study estimated a new YMCA could bring in 1,628 new members and $941,072 in membership fees.
YMCA of Greater Omaha CEO Len Romano said a new Gretna YMCA was still on his organization's wish list. But finding the funds for what could be a $12 million to $16 million construction project is easier said than done, especially as the YMCA embarks on plans for a new 73,000-square-foot, two-level facility in Council Bluffs.
“Strategically, it is a priority for us,” Romano said of Gretna. “Gretna is a great family community that would lend itself really well to a Y, and the market study confirmed that. Right now, our focus is on Council Bluffs.”
Finding community partners who can help finance a Gretna YMCA is key, he said.
Despite turnover in the mayor and city administrator offices, Kooistra said the city is still game.
“I think there's still strong interest to do so,” he said.
The 2012 study identified two city-owned tracts as possible locations for a 44,000-square-foot YMCA — one site on Highway 370 near the Gretna fire station and another near the new water tower, with preference given to the fire station site.
Ideally, the YMCA would partner with a developer who would build on city land and then lease the building, which could be built in multiple phases, back to the YMCA, Romano said.
The Gretna school system is another potential partner, since it's looking for a permanent pool for school swim team practices and meets.
“It's really a community that needs a YMCA because of the concentration of families,” Romano said. “It's halfway between Lincoln and Omaha, and as they grow, the need for infrastructure like this will occur.”
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