Wichita State University said Wednesday it is in advanced discussions with the Greater Wichita YMCA to build a new YMCA on its Innovation Campus.
The university was set to present the proposal to the Student Government Association on Wednesday evening. The SGA, which must approve the student fee increase needed to operate it, won’t vote on the proposal until March 8.
The 60,000-square-foot facility would supplement the existing Heskett Center. It would include workout facilities, a health clinic, wellness and counseling services, and a drop-in day care center.
The YMCA would design, build and maintain the facility, as well as operate the fitness and day care center. The university would operate the medical and counseling areas.
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All WSU students would automatically be members of that facility as well as the other nine YMCAs in Sedgwick, Butler and Harvey counties.
Student fees would pay most of the costs of operating the facility.
Teri Hall, WSU vice president for student affairs, said students are now charged $5.52 per credit hour for existing health and wellness services, although that is lumped in with other costs into an overall fee of about $33 per credit hour.
With the new YMCA, students would pay about $12.25 per credit hour for health and wellness services, or about $41 per credit hour overall.
For a course load of 15 credit hours per semester, fees would rise about $115 per semester.
Hall said the cost of such amenities would be lower than at the University of Kansas or Kansas State University. It would also be significantly lower than an existing standard Y membership.
Faculty and staff could also join, or use the new facility with an existing Y membership.
It’s not a foregone conclusion that it will pass, said Joseph Shepard, president of the Student Government Association.
Some are excited about the new amenities and the growth they encourage, while others are concerned about higher fees and the Heskett Center jobs that might be lost.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” Shepard said. “The campus is pretty split on this as I read it.”
If the SGA approves the increase, it must then be approved by the university and the Kansas Board of Regents.
The building hasn’t been designed or bid yet, but the plan is for WSU to contribute roughly $5 million toward construction and the YMCA to supply roughly $10 million.
The YMCA said it is too early to comment on the proposal.
In a written statement, Ron McMahon, president and CEO of the Greater Wichita YMCA, said: “This collaboration with WSU on its Innovation Campus is a great way to fulfill our mission of developing young people and promoting healthy living and social responsibility.
“By adding a YMCA on the Wichita State campus and providing memberships to students, it will help us reach our goal of making Wichita healthier than you can imagine.”
If the plan is approved, the new facilities would open in about 18 to 24 months on the northwest corner of Innovation Campus, where Perimeter Road meets Mike Oatman Drive, south of Eck Stadium.
John Tomblin, vice president for Research & Technology Transfer, said the need for the facility comes from the students.
“We are one of the last to upgrade our recreation facilities, and this gets us some drop-in day care,” he said. “That is one of the number one requests we have, a drop-in day care center.
“The Heskett Center is a great facility, but it’s just really old and the cost to renovate it was just cost prohibitive.”
The hope, he said, is that the new facility will help sell the campus to prospective students.
During the construction period, all students would have access to all existing Y facilities. The closest current Y is less than three miles away from WSU at 3300 N. Woodlawn.
The new facility would expand recreation options, rather than replace WSU’s existing Heskett campus recreation center.
“Intramurals, sport clubs, aquatics and the crew team will still have a home in the Heskett Center,” Hall said. “We expect the Campus Rec staff will create additional initiatives to engage students there.”