Feature Article - November 2008
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Versatile Venues

Collaborate to Bring More to Your Community

By Jessica Royer Ocken



Ways It Can Work

Here is a sampling of the multipurpose venues and collaborative partnerships that are currently meeting the needs of their communities in a dynamic way:

YMCA and charter school: Built in 2002, the Northside branch of the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee serves a lower-income neighborhood with services including Young Leaders Academy, a 650-student grades K through 8 charter school, as well as the Northside Childcare Center, a social services program to provide infant car seats to families in need, an American Cancer Society office and a nurse program run by the Children's Hospital that serves students and their families. The 114,000-square-foot campus also features an adventure pool, gymnasium, fitness center and commissioned artwork with an African village theme.

Park district and public schools: The Modesto, Calif., Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods has for years maintained a relationship with Modesto City Schools that allows for shared use of several multipurpose buildings, swimming pools and sports fields.

YMCA, medical facility and senior living center: The South Suburban YMCA in Franklin, Wis., will combine YMCA amenities with a medical facility and senior independent living facility to promote "all-around personal health—mind, body and spirit," explained Kent Johnson, now COO of the YMCA of the USA and former CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. "We're all seeking to improve our health in some way. The housing provider has a Christian parent organization, as does the medical provider, so the philosophical alignments were inherent. We'll exist to help others."

Park district, fire department, police department and local government services: Modesto, Calif.'s, most current collaboration is a neighborhood park that will house a fire department and police precinct, as well as assorted community meeting spaces and a public services office.

YMCA and public school: The Lake Houston YMCA and Humble, Texas, Independent School District have purchased land together and are currently in the process of creating a combination middle school and teen-focused YMCA in Summerwood, Texas.

City and YMCA: The city of Glendale, Colo., and the local YMCA have collaborated on a community fitness center for years, but they're now taking things to the next level with the Infinity Park project, a full-sized rugby field and fully equipped 5,000-seat stadium that will adjoin a state-of-the-art sports center to be used by the community, city employees and local rugby teams. Other amenities include childcare, a branch of the public library, a multipurpose room, group exercise rooms, club rooms, and food and beverage service.

Multipurpose arts center: In addition to the usual YMCA features, the John C. Cudahy YMCA opened in 2000 in Milwaukee, Wis., as the first Y in the country to focus on the arts and humanities. Situated in a neighborhood with more than 4,000 children under age 17 within a one-mile radius, this Y offers visual arts, music, dance and theater programs that fill a void of local activities for kids. An artist-in-residence program, outdoor swimming pool, amphitheater, childcare center and active older adult programs round out their services.

YMCA and community center: In the low-income community of Splendora, Texas, the Lake Houston YMCA provides programming for children and families in an otherwise underused community building.