Feature Photo (above): The YMCA of Greater Williamson County facility in Round Rock. The organization is in talks with College Station about developing a YMCA facility. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
College Station (Brazos County) — City Council plans to update a 2016 study about developing a YMCA facility and will be seeking public participation on its design.
The council held a workshop June 27 that included a presentation from Jeff Andresen, President/CEO of the YMCA of Greater Williamson County, the organization that emerged recently as the city’s partner. The Williamson County YMCA operates facilities in Round Rock, Cedar Park, Hutto and Burnet, and is in various stages of development on facilities in other communities.
Mayor Karl Mooney told The Eagle that a YMCA facility could help the local school districts by providing an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Last week, Mooney spoke to KBTX-TV and explained the process should begin by updating a study done in the late spring of 2016.
“We’ve grown as a community since then,” Mooney told KBTX.
Andresen told the council during the workshop that the typical facility is from 60,000 to 80,000 square feet and has an average construction cost of $20 million. The operating cost at maturity (after 5 years) is close to $3 million annually. However, the YMCA would be responsible for that cost, assuming a membership of about 4,000 family units recaptures 50% of the operating cost.
The City of College Station’s 2016 study estimated a potential membership pool of 3,844 family units. Andresen said the typical revenue mix is 70 percent membership and 30 percent programs.
Asked what the operating cost contribution of the city would be, Andresen said nothing, assuming the facility met the membership threshold. The city would only cover the cost to build the facility and any future capital maintenance, such as replacing an air conditioning system.
The concept being put forward now is to partner with an established YMCA organization. For its part, College Station is able to offer a land donation–a site located near that Baylor Scott & White medical center east of Texas Highway 6.
Mooney is inviting the community to participating with suggestion on the kind of features and programs the facility should have. The study must also establish a baseline for the level of community participation that can be expected.
“We want to make certain that there’s enough folks out there that will support a ‘Y’,” Mooney told KBTX.
He said there has to be some assurance the YMCA will have at least 4,000 or more family units as members.
“That’s the tipping point at which the Y takes on minor maintenance, so the city doesn’t have to absorb those costs.”
Andresen was accompanied by David Vaughn, the city manager of the City of Burnet, population 6,400. Vaughn explained that his community built a 50,000 square foot recreation center in 1999 and from its inception onward it was under-performing in every way and losing about $500,000 a year.
Everything changed for the better when the city entered a management agreement with the Williamson County YMCA, Vaughn said.
“Now the cost is down to $125,000 to $150,000 a year. For us, it’s been an absolute godsend. It has gone from a thorn in our side to the incredible asset that was dreamed of at the time it was built,” Vaughn said.
Burent’s experience encouraged the council to move forward, particularly in light of the fact that the 2016 study only surveyed College Station residents. One council member noted it was likely some residents of Bryan would also become members.
The residents of College Station have been trying to get a YMCA facility for years. The city has no such indoor recreational facility for the community.
In 2016, College Station was in talks with the YMCA of Greater Houston, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the Houston ‘Y’ had to postpone its participation. That organization suffered $30 million in damages and had to prioritize fundraising toward its own recovery.
The council did not want to wait on Houston and sought out a new partner. Mooney acknowledged that the process has been dormant for a few years and updating the study will be a slow process, but he doesn’t want to wait any longer than necessary.
“If we delay, this could raise the cost,” Mooney told KBTX.
The area that is being targeted for a future YMCA is experiencing significant commercial growth. Immediately east of the Baylor Scott & White complex, new roads and infrastructure are being built for College Station Town Center, a 110-acre mixed use development of retail, restaurants and healthcare facilities. Browne McGregor Architects is the designer of the town center master plan.