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Editorial: YMCA welcome in Johnson County

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The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis has operated the Baxter facility on the southside for a generation. But for many Johnson County residents, the drive north is hard to justify.

For that reason, Y leaders have wanted to open a facility in Johnson County for several years. They have looked at locations along State Road 135 in the Center Grove area, first a site near Whiteland Road and then one near Stones Crossing Road. In both cases, the land would be expensive because of its commercial potential.

Now the Y is considering building one at Freedom Park in Greenwood. The 79-acre park is at Stop 18 and Averitt roads on the city’s southwest side.

Johnson County’s population growth made it a target for expansion, Baxter YMCA executive director Danielle Tippett said. The nonprofit is always looking to grow and offer its health and wellness services to more people, she said.

Tippett said that in recent years the local chapter of the nonprofit Young Men’s Christian Association has been in an expansion mode and is building new YMCA facilities in Indianapolis.

Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers is asking the YMCA to build a new facility in Greenwood instead of farther south on State Road 135, as originally was envisioned. The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis board still must vote on whether to pursue the project and also would do a feasibility study to make sure the proposed facility would bring in enough money to cover expenses.

A Greenwood YMCA likely would be about 50,000 square feet, or roughly the size of the southside Baxter YMCA before it was expanded after sustaining damage in the 2002 tornado, Tippett said. The facility would include an indoor pool, workout equipment, exercise rooms and places for families to gather. It would offer a full range of programs, including yoga classes, youth sports and day care.

About 17,000 members currently use the Baxter YMCA about a mile north of County Line Road, and it’s often packed. The YMCA has been eying another south-suburban facility since Johnson County’s population has grown to the point where it could support one, Tippett said. In addition, residents have expressed interest in a new center, and new homes continue to be built farther south, she said.

If a new Greenwood YMCA were built, the Baxter YMCA would remain open. The goal of a new Johnson County facility would be to gain new members, including people who live in the Center Grove area, Greenwood and Whiteland, Tippett said.

“Landing a YMCA would be huge,” Myers said. “They help make the community healthier, stronger and more thriving. They have vibrant programs for every financial classification and reach out to the underprivileged as well as the wealthy.”

Myers came up with and pitched the idea of a YMCA in Freedom Park in September, thinking it would tie in well with the aquatic center the city had planned at the park. He said that both facilities could make the park a major destination that would draw visitors from surrounding communities.

Health and physical fitness facilities are among the amenities that make communities attractive to new residents and to businesses looking to locate or expand here. A YMCA, whether it is built in Freedom Park or elsewhere, would be a welcome addition to Johnson County.

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