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Construction Begins on Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center

YMCA of Greater Kansas City
November 19, 2018
Photo: Donors, partners and leaders turn shovels in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Downtown YMCA

Construction kicked off on the Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center at the former Lyric Theatre building on Friday, November 16. Donors, volunteers, members and the community gathered for a celebration on the front steps of the historic Lyric building. 

A short program emceed by Lara Moritz from KMBC 9 News included remarks from Y leaders, city officials and partners on the project. 

David Byrd, President and CEO, spoke of the impact the new Y will have in the community. He said the dream for the new Y is that it will be “a place for people to come together from across the downtown community.”

There has not been a full-service YMCA downtown since 1984. The new Y will provide programs to address chronic disease, help prevent drowning through youth swim lessons, make health care more accessible through Truman Medical Center’s on-site University Health clinic, serve more youth through an expanded partnership with Crossroads Charter Schools with activities such as swim lessons and a high school swim team, and more.

CiCi Rojas, Chief Volunteer Officer, recognized contributors and partners.

“I’m proud, to say the least, especially after we have raised $35 million for the new Y, the largest capital campaign in the history of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City,” Rojas said.

The renovation and reconstruction project is funded by $16.9 million from the 11th Street Corridor Tax Increment Financing District, additional funding from the Missouri Development Finance Board, as well as charitable gifts from foundations and individual donors.

The Kirk Family Legacy

The new Y will be named the Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center, in honor of the Kirk family for their support of the project and longtime support for the Y. During the program, a monument sign was unveiled with the name of the new center.

Frank Kirk, representing the Kirk family, thanked supporters and spoke of his brother Phil, who played a key role in Kansas City’s downtown revitalization. Phil was the former chairman of DST Realty, now part of SS&C Technologies, and was instrumental in bringing the new Y to the former Lyric Theatre prior to his death in 2014.

Frank shared that his parents taught him and his brothers, “You put back into the city more than you take out, a concept that we have lived by forever.”

This location was Phil’s idea, Frank said, and it was part of the plan Phil and Bill Deramus, the chairman of Kansas City Southern who died in 1989, had for the revitalization of the west side of downtown.

“This beautiful site finishes off the wonderful plan they had,” Frank said.

Frank also thanked the Y staff, and recognized Byrd for his leadership in improving the Y’s financial position and driving the capital campaign that led to the renovation and expansion of the the Atchison and Linwood Ys, and building a new Downtown Y. 

“David has been a wonderful leader for the major renewal of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City,” Frank said. “This Y is now financially strong and better serving families all over the Kansas City area.”

Closing Gaps in the Community

Mayor Sly James said the Y is so much more than a pool, a gym or even a community center. 

“Anytime that you have a building, a location, a venue, where people come together, people of different stripes, different colors, different ages, different walks of life, in one place, then we all have the chance to get to know each other better,” James said. “And in getting to know each other better, we have the chance to alleviate and eliminate some of the things that divide us.”

Sean O’Byrne, Vice President of Business Development for the Downtown Council, said the new Y will help attract families. 

“We have families moving downtown because of our wonderful schools,” O’Bryne said. “I think that this facility is only going to elevate that to the next level with bringing families and all sorts of people downtown.”

Charlie Shields, President and CEO of Truman Medical Center, spoke about how TMC will continue its partnership with the Y by building a new University Health Clinic in the new Downtown YMCA. 

“Of all of our patients who suffer from chronic diseases, many of them live very close to this community center, and we’ll be able to expand that partnership and give them care right here...this is a place of health, and at Truman, we are excited to be part of that,” Shields said.

Dean Johnson, Executive Director of Crossroads Charter Schools, said the new Y, which will neighbor the Crossroads Central Street Campus, will allow more opportunities for children and families. Currently the Y provides a before and after school program for Crossroads and students use the Quality Hill YMCA facilities. 

“Looking forward, the YMCA and Crossroads partnership opportunities are boundless,” Johnson said. The vision includes grade school swim lessons, a high school swim team, volunteer projects serving the downtown area, improved health access with TMC’s University Health clinic, shared facilities for sports and community gatherings, culinary classes, and a great destination for staff and families. 

To welcome the Y to the neighborhood, students representing Crossroads’ three campuses presented a banner to the Y.

Contributors and Partners

Donors  include the Sunderland Foundation; Tom and Jean McDonnell; Illig Family Foundation; William T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank, Trustee; The Kirk Foundation Trust; SS&C Technologies; Victor Speas Foundation, US Trust, Bank of America Corporation; Gary Dickinson Family Charitable Foundation; Kansas City Southern; Mabee Foundation; Dunn Family Foundation; UMB Trusts & Foundations: Arvin Gottlieb Charitable Foundation; Jim and Annabel Nutter Family; Sherman Foundation; KCP&L; Frank and Nancy Kirk; Mark One Electric; Tom and Jill McGee; Natalie Kirk Welch and J.C. Welch; Allen and Libby Blair; Charles and Judy Kahn; and Ron and Nancy Jones.

Design and construction partners include BNIM Architects, JE Dunn Construction, Structural Engineering Associates, Henderson Engineers, Antella, Taliaferro & Browne, New Horizons, Land3 Studio, Larkin and FSC.
 
Development partners include Broadway Square Partners, Downtown Council and MC Realty.
 
Financing partners include Sun Trust Bank, Industrial Development Authority of the City of Kansas City Missouri, and Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority.

The new center is expected to open in spring of 2021.

View more event photos in our online album.

For more information, visit KansasCityYMCA.org/Downtown.