The new downtown YMCA had 60,000 visits in January, topping traffic goals officials set for the facility’s first full month of operation.
“When we opened, the goal was 45,000 visits a month,” Shelly Conrady, a YMCA spokeswoman, said Wednesday. “So we’re exceeding expectations.”
The 60,000 recorded visits do not include the free visits given out to needy people, Conrady said.
The old YMCA building at Third and Market, which workers began knocking down Monday, served about 850 people a day, she said. The new building is serving about 2,000.
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Watching the old building begin to come down was emotionally moving for some longtime YMCA employees, she said. The building had been a fixture in downtown since it was built in 1959.
It actually was the third YMCA building in downtown Wichita, replacing another 50-year-old facility at First and Emporia. That building no longer exists.
The old downtown YMCA – which cost $1.7 million to build in 1959 – was originally designed to have 10 stories that would have included seven floors for residences. The goal was to raise money to build the additional stories after it opened.
But after hotels and motels became more common downtown, YMCA officials realized the residences were unnecessary. Remnants of the 10-story idea could be seen in the building, including stairways on the third floor that led to nowhere except the association’s best-laid intentions.
When it opened, it featured the state’s first Olympic-sized indoor pool. The Wichita YMCA had about 15,000 members at the time, and 93 percent of them were male.
Today the YMCA has more than 150,000 members and 49 percent are male.