ROME — After nearly 50 years in its current West Bloomfield Street location, the Rome YMCA is looking to move where the former Wright Park Manor complex used to be along Floyd Avenue.
While some residents have expressed concern about the proposed location, Bruce Hairston, the Rome facility’s multi-team leader, said he thinks the teens and children will find the Y no matter what.
“The kids figure out a way to get here,” he said. “Most kids don’t walk today; their parents drop them off, that’s just the reality. They ride their bikes. RFA is right up (near the business park), so the kids would actually have easier access to the Y. We have the pre-Ks right across the street, MVCC is right there and we’re still in the city, it’s just another part of the city. The kids will find the Y because that’s what they do.”
Rome YMCA CEO Hank Leo did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
Hairston said the current location is aging and it’s landlocked, making it impossible to expand the services, improve parking or create a better outside play space for children.
As of now, the three-story building that was built in 1971 has been patched up as best as the staff can manage, but Hairston said the city needs and deserves a new facility.
“Like every building in the '70s, it was built like a bomb shelter-type old school building,” he said. “So our building is very chopped up as far as spacing, there’s not a lot of lighting and the biggest issue is we are landlocked on two-acres of land. … We don’t have any outdoor play space for children. We have a little gated area out there where children can run around on some cement and draw with chalk.”
Rome resident Kelly Lubeck said she agrees that the facility needs to be upgraded, she doesn’t think the new location is going to work well.
Because the YMCA traditionally has been about helping the inner city kids, Lubeck said the new location should be closer to downtown than Woodhaven, which is closer to the Griffiss Business and Technology Park than the downtown.
“It seems like they want to revitalize Rome, yet they’re taking everything out of the city and putting it on the outskirts,” Lubeck said. “I just think it’s disheartening. I know that they need a new facility, I just think it’s disheartening to take it out of the downtown area.”
Rome resident Sam Myers III disagrees.
While he isn’t personally a member of the YMCA, it makes sense to make a business decision that will benefit the facility and to expand services, he said.
“It just makes sense to me if they are struggling with memberships and maintenance issues, they need to do what any business would do,” Myers said. “Find a way to appeal to a larger population.”
The YMCA has been in talks with the city, said Rome Mayor Jacqueline Izzo. The YMCA is a private business, so the city can’t require the facility to move, but the operators have worked with the city to try to make an improvement plan.
The YMCA has sent in a Consolidated Funding Application to the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council. The application was for $2.4 million to go toward building a new facility, which Izzo said could serve as the kick off to a health and wellness area.
“You have the beginnings of almost a health and wellness-type area and then you have the college,” Izzo said. “It’s an up-and-coming area; it’s going to be our next really major development corridor. … The city is looking at the overall development, we’re looking at creating a new neighborhood and the city owns the land at the former Wright Park Manor and we would hopefully be able to be a partner in at least the land space, so it would be a more feasible project for the Y financially.”
Izzo said the site the YMCA is in now will not go unused — they already are looking to redevelop the area into possibly a mixed use facility or a new housing project. She added they aim to have the new facility open within three years in time for its 150th anniversary.
Hairston said the grant would help, along with fundraising and such, but the end goal is to appeal to a larger group of people and be able to expand membership.
The YMCA hired an outside company to do community outreach to people throughout the city, and Hairston said the overall attitude about getting a new facility was positive.
“Timing wise, it just happened to work out with (Izzo’s) master plan and where we are with our space here,” he said. “If we develop the housing, along with the YMCA we feel that will be a great draw that will bring the young people in. … You have to go where the growth is and that’s where we want to be. If there was going to be somebody to develop there anyways, where does that leave the Y?”
Contact reporter Samantha Madison at 315-792-5015 and follow her on Twitter (@OD_Madison)