Major changes are coming to the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.

In March, the Y announced a new strategic plan that includes building a new Y in downtown Kansas City, MO, renovating two facilities, and closing three locations.

The plan was developed after two years of research by the Y identified possibilities for growth through the existing Ys in Atchison, KS, and Linwood, KS, and by building a facility in downtown Kansas City, which has not had a Y since 1981.

The Y plans to build a 100,000-square-foot facility in downtown Kansas City by 2016. Possible features include swimming pools, an early learning center, meeting rooms, a café, an attached parking garage and medical wellness services. The project would cost $30 million to $40 million, says Paula Spreitzer Oxler, senior public relations director for the Y of Greater Kansas City.

The Linwood Family Y and The Atchison Family Y will be renovated and expanded to include improved aquatics centers and more healthy living spaces.

The strategic plan also called for the closing of the 8th Street Family Y, Kansas City, KS, the Richard C. Green, Sr. Family Y, Raytown, MO, and the Independence Family Y, Independence, MO. All 17 of the Y of Greater Kansas City's facilities were evaluated, and those three were identified as experiencing challenges, including declining membership, program participation and fundraising, Oxler says.

Community Reacts to Y Closings

Community members were upset by news of the closings. A petition to save the Raytown Y was launched, and the closings were the subject of several letters to the editor and opinion pieces in The Kansas City Star over the last month, with critics saying community leaders were not given enough time to propose alternatives to closing the Ys.

Last Thursday, the Y reached an agreement with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County (KS) that will allow the Kansas City, KS, location to remain open with financial help from the county.

The Raytown and Independence Ys will close Friday. The Y offered three proposals to the city of Raytown, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement. The Independence School District expressed interest in buying the Independence Family Y building, but its offer was under market value, according to a statement from the Y of Greater Kansas City.

Oxler says that the strong reaction to the closings was expected, but the Y has to consider how it can best serve the community long-term.

"It has been heartening to see the passionate responses from these three communities," Oxler says. "We felt the community had spoken to us based on the declining lack of interest in membership, programs and donations. Moving forward, we continue to work to balance the financial realities of the business with our mission to serve the community."

Oxler adds that the decision to close the facilities in Raytown and Independence was separate from the decision to move forward with the downtown Y.

"It wasn't trading one project for another," Oxler says. "It really was seeing what the research said in terms of long-term success."

The Y needs to raise $50 million to $60 million to fund the construction of the downtown Y as well as the Atchison and Linwood renovations. The Y hopes to complete fundraising in the next year, break ground on the downtown facility in late 2014 or early 2015 and open the center in 2016.