COLUMBUS — Members of the Columbus parks board view the soon-to-be-vacated YMCA building as a recreational resource the city can’t afford to lose.
City staff members see dollar signs when discussing the possibility of purchasing a decades-old property that could quickly become a money pit.
Soon, the Columbus City Council will determine whether the city should look into a possible purchase of the Columbus Family YMCA property at 2200 28th Ave.
The parks board voted Tuesday to send a recommendation to the City Council that calls for an investigation into the feasibility of making the more than 70,000-square-foot building a city-owned property.
Chairman Steve Kohl, who initiated the parks board discussion, said he would like to see the proposal pursued as a way to continue offering services not included in the YMCA's plans once it moves into the new Columbus Wellness Center, an approximately 85,700-square-foot, $22 million facility expected to open next year at 3912 38th St.
The current YMCA building includes basketball courts, a walking track and space for exercise equipment, but indoor tennis, racquetball and handball courts will be lost following the YMCA’s move.
Board member Roland Augspurger, a member of the Columbus Tennis Association, said those amenities should be available in a city the size of Columbus.
Augspurger said the tennis association would be willing to assist the city with research and proposed a partnership with Columbus Public Schools since the high school girls tennis team uses the YMCA courts for practices and tryouts.
Fellow tennis association member Wilma Arp showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to voice her support for the plan as well.
Arp said other organizations may step forward with ideas that allow even more activities to be held in the building after the YMCA moves out.
“If we just allow that building to go vacant, that would be a terrible shame,” she said.
One potential user is Central Community College-Columbus.
Parks board member Jack Gutierrez, who serves as the college’s athletic director, said CCC is looking to add more sports, including baseball and women’s soccer, but a lack of available facilities makes that difficult.
He said an agreement that allows CCC to use the building “could be an option” and also suggested opening the space for year-round baseball and softball, something that’s currently not offered in Columbus.
Other board members agreed the building shouldn’t be allowed to sit empty, while also recognizing the city doesn’t want to offer services and activities that compete with the YMCA.
The biggest obstacle to the parks board plan is funding.
With the city’s budget for fiscal year 2014-15 set to be approved next month, City Administrator Joe Mangiamelli said it would be at least a year before an acquisition could occur.
Mangiamelli told the parks board that city staff members have no interest in pursuing the purchase at this time, but the idea could be revisited if the property still is on the market six months from now.
“Hopefully by that time it would have sold to somebody who is going to do something with it,” he said.
Columbus Public Property Director Doug Moore shared similar funding concerns, saying the city already has several high-dollar projects planned for the months ahead.
“This would be a really tough situation for the city to get involved in right now,” he said.
The 3.3-acre property, which is still owned by the YMCA, is currently listed for $749,900 on the C.S. Nelson Co. Real Estate website.
In addition to the purchase price, Mangiamelli said the city also must be willing to take on expenses to furnish, staff and maintain the building — costs that could be passed on to local taxpayers.
“You’re asking for a major undertaking,” he told the board.