Council Told Ymca Will Succeed

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The Payson Town Council heard an expert recommend that the town proceed with plans to build a YMCA.

Buck Winfield, president of the The Winfield Consulting Group, presented the results of a market research study Thursday night, based on a telephone survey of 600 northern Gila County residents that he called "good news." It projected 357 households with "a great deal of interest" in joining such a facility, and an additional 519 households with "a lot of interest."

The study concluded "that the YMCA and the town of Payson have an opportunity to establish a community-based facility focused on fitness, aquatics, total health, sports, and recreation for children and adults of all ages."

Winfield told the council that the study identified the following program areas as the most popular among Rim country residents:

  • Programs for older children and teens, including basketball and baseball sports leagues, creative arts courses, and traditional and theme camps.
  • Warm-water aquatics for children and adults, including swimming lessons and therapeutic exercise classes.
  • Traditional fitness and aerobics for adults in a fitness center and an indoor track for walking and running.
  • Staff advice on workout techniques, personalized fitness and health plans, and computer workout programs that monitor progress.

Past councils have expressed a strong interest in building a community center with facilities similar to a YMCA. But the idea was put on hold when a feasibility study conducted for the town in August 2003 by Ballard, King and Associates estimated a community center could cost the town more than $11 million.

The town's investment would be minimal if the facility can be built debt-free, according to Sharon Stropel, president of Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation.

"Based on the marketing study, if we can open the facility debt free, it can probably operate with no more commitment from the town than what the town is already doing for recreational services," Stropel said.

If, for example, the proposed YMCA includes an aquatic facility, the amount the town uses to subsidize Taylor pool could be used to subsidize the facility.

The next step is a financial feasibility study to see whether a partnership can be put together to build and operate the facility, which would probably be located next to the library at Rumsey Park.

"There's no final commitment from the Y, but we will need the results of the capital development study to know how to raise the money and that's the critical thing at this point," Stropel said.

The money to conduct the study has already been raised. Local Realtor Jim Young, who served as honorary chairman of the fund-raising effort presented a list of donors to the council.

"Everyone's optimistic that the marketing study points in the right direction, that it's a go, so we've raised money in the community to figure out how we're going to build it and the cost," Stropel said.

At some point, the council will be asked to sign on, but that will come later in process.

"The council's participation as a partner is a decision the council will make, (but) at this point the council is not committed to donating any money or doing anything other than continuing to participate in the planning stages as a potential partner," she said.

Stropel emphasized that such a project requires the support and involvement of a broad cross section of the community.

"I don't think it's the kind of project any one group can do," she said. "I think it's a true community effort.

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