Payson Ymca Offers Town Opportunity

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The need for a community and youth center in Payson is nothing new.

Bill Ensign, president of Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation, said his group was founded with that goal in mind in 2003.

"My only concern is to get recreation facilities to the town," he said.

When it was discovered several years ago that the town would be unable to fund a community center, needing first to focus on road improvements and other town projects, Ensign said his group contacted the YMCA.

"The project was driven from the beginning by the Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation, in conjunction with the town," Ensign said. "When we learned we couldn't fund this from the town, that's when we approached the YMCA. The Y came on because we asked them to."

A feasibility study was conducted for the YMCA in 2005 by The Winfield Consulting Group, in which more than 600 randomly selected households in Payson and surrounding areas were contacted and interviewed.

The results of the interviews indicated a YMCA would be successful in Payson.

The study also revealed a 30,000-square-foot facility with a wellness center, gymnasium and pool would be suitable for the town's recreation needs.

George Scobas, executive vice president of Valley of the Sun YMCA, said he is confident in the findings of the study.

"We wouldn't be here if we didn't think this would be successful," he said.

The YMCA is looking to lease up to five acres of land at Rumsey Park for the facility.

"We prefer that site," Scobas said. "We're relying on Rick (Manchester, Parks and Recreation director,) to tell us what we need and where to put it."

The Payson council voted 5-2 on Oct. 18 in favor of discussing lease terms. Mayor Bob Edwards and councilor Mike Vogel voted against the project.

Edwards said, "We are giving a gift of land at a value probably between $500,000 and $1 million."

Cameron Carter, a lawyer representing the YMCA who is working with town officials on the project, said as long as the town reaps some benefit from the project, in this case more activities and a community facility, a lease for as low as one dollar a year for the land is acceptable.

"It's doable," he said. "It's done all the time."

Carter said the next step is formulating lease terms that will benefit the town as well as the non-profit YMCA. The location will be decided upon in conjunction with the lease terms.

The lease is expected to return to the council in December or January, Carter said.

"We've met with (town officials)," he said. "We've talked about all the issues."

Carter said in discussions with town officials and other interested groups looking for a place to hold meetings, dance rehearsals and sports practices and games, a concept for the facility is in the works.

"There's a lot of flexibility with what can be included in the facility," he said. "That's really where we're at right now; working with the town and specific groups to determine what the project can be."

Scobas said the facility would likely include a 2,000-square-foot multipurpose room with hardwood floors and mirrors that could be used for ballet, dance or gymnastics, among other activities.

The facility would also include a 10,000-square-foot gym with two full-size basketball courts, he said.

The YMCA would likely include an indoor-outdoor convertible pool as well. Taylor Pool at Rumsey Park is among issues being discussed, Scobas said.

"If a facility is taken out, it will be replaced by the Y," Carter said. "We don't want the town to lose any facilities."

"We don't want to compete with the town," he added.

The majority of the project costs -- estimated between $5 million and $6 million -- would come through fund-raising.

The YMCA already has a $1 million donation from the Marley Foundation to be used for a facility in Payson.

Ensign said fund-raising efforts would begin after a lease is secured.

Scobas said he is confident that the remainder of the project cost can be raised through local fund-raising and donations. A fund-raising feasibility study conducted in 2005 by Young and Company indicated the very same thing, he said.

"I think it will come together very, very quickly," he said.

Scobas added the project is a "community project" and that once the initial building and construction costs are covered, the rest is relatively easy to manage.

"There's not a Y across the country that's not successful, if the buildings are paid for," he said. "If we don't get a land donation or at an extremely reduced rate, we're always short on a pool or a gym. The fund-raisers would have to raise more money."

The maintenance of the YMCA is easily handled through continual fund-raising efforts, membership fees and other program fees, Scobas added.

Family memberships would likely range from $45 to $80 a month, with a lesser rate for singles and couples. The rates are based on income and can be lowered if necessary, Scobas said.

"We have a program where no one will be denied," he said.

The YMCA would be staffed by local residents. Scobas estimated that up to four full-time employees including a director or manager would likely be needed, along with 20 part-time positions.

"Our goal is to hire as many people from here and have them move up in the system," he said.

In addition to local employees, the Y would have a board of about 20 to 25 people that would set programming and policies of operation.

The facility would likely be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday hours would probably be shorter, Scobas said.

Scobas estimated a two-year time frame for the project -- likely a 16-month construction period after funds are raised.

Ensign said he was hopeful about the real possibility of a YMCA in Payson.

"We've got a tremendous opportunity here," he said. "The kids need something in this town."

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