Dennis Schoenebeck embarked on his first capital campaign to build something new for the Greater Wichita YMCA in 1993, three years after he became general executive. He’s been on a steady upward trajectory of development ever since.
The first capital campaign under his direction raised $7 million to renovate the Central and West branches, which included the addition of a new gym, in 1993.
A $5 million loan allowed for construction of a new East Y in 1995.
In 1997, a campaign raised about $8 million for a new South branch, which was completed in September 1999, and an upgraded Camp Hyde. That’s a 125-acre Y day camp in Viola that wasn’t particularly active before Schoenebeck came.
The success of the popular East branch caused Schoenebeck to start thinking about a North branch. Then the city of El Dorado called.
“We hadn’t really thought about El Dorado,” Schoenebeck said.
The city raised $5 million, and the Y opened there in July 2002. An approximately $17 million North Wichita branch followed in December 2002.
Then Andover, which was looking for an outdoor pool, called. Northwest Wichita was Schoenebeck’s first priority, though.
The $21 million Northwest Y opened in June 2006. The $23 million Andover Y opened in June 2009.
Since the Wichita area isn’t that large, Schoenebeck said he wanted to offer a variety of options at branches “so people could go from one to the other.”
“I wanted to make them all different.”
Now, a new $27 million Central Y is nearing completion for a December opening.
Schoenebeck had it on his agenda to do five years ago, but members said they liked it as it was, so he built the Farha Sports Center at the South branch instead.
Finally, though, Schoenebeck and the board decided to replace the 1959 Central branch building.
“It’s tough,” he said. “There’s a lot of history there.”
Schoenebeck said there are some people who have been members since it opened.
“It’s like home. It’s like an old shoe.”
The new three-story building under construction is significantly more compact than the other Ys and sits close to the street at Central and Market. Schoenebeck says that creates energy and that the Y will be “a real asset for downtown.”
He said each of the Y’s has had its own impact. For instance, when the South branch opened, he said, nothing was around it. Now there are numerous businesses.
The Northwest Y has 1.4 million visitors a year. Schoenebeck points out that the Sedgwick County Zoo, one of the state’s top tourist attractions, has more like 550,000 visitors annually.
Now, the Y is focused on wrapping up its campaign to raise $9 million for current projects and looking ahead to Vision 2020, a strategic plan for what to do next.
“It was important for us to take a step back and say, OK, where do we want to be? … How do we stay relevant and important?” Schoenebeck said.
“It helps outline priorities that help us meet our mission that help meet the needs of the community for the foreseeable future.”