By Max Goodwin and Kathy Feist
The YMCA of Greater Kansas City announced this week that it will close the Red Bridge YMCA on December 17.
The location has operated since 1964. Members were stunned to hear of its closure and feared it could negatively impact the area.
The Notre Dame de Sion swim team planned to continue using the facility for practice, but were told October 29 that they would need to find a new location for the season which began November 7.
“We had to scramble to find pool space to rent, which as you can imagine was quite difficult with such short notice,” Sion swim coach Kelly Timmons said.
Sion has found a new location but will now have to cut practice from 90 to 30 minutes and will now have to start practice at 8 p.m. The Rockhurst High School swim team has practiced at the Red Bridge YMCA for 20 years and were also notified they would need to find a new location. The boys high school swim season ends November 13. Rockhurst has not yet found a location for next year.
“We’ve enjoyed a wonderful 20-year relationship with the YMCA, so this is a very tough departure for our program,” Rockhurst swim and dive coach Paul Winkeler said.
The YMCA of Greater Kansas City said in its statement to the public that it was no longer sustainable to operate the Red Bridge location after membership fell during the pandemic and has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
“The Red Bridge YMCA has seen a decline in membership over the past 20 years,” said Paula Oxler, Associate Vice President of Communications for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City. “When we look at recent trends post-pandemic, other local Ys are seeing improvements in membership, but the Red Bridge Y is not seeing those trends.”
Donald Tiesenga has been a member of the Red Bridge YMCA for ten years since moving to the area. He and his wife swim at the YMCA about five days each week. They were shocked when they received a YMCA letter in the mail notifying him that the location would be closing.
“The Y has played an important part in our life,” Tiesenga said.
Tiesenga said he would have liked to see more effort from the YMCA of Greater Kansas City to promote membership in the area. Oxler said the YMCA has done digital and broadcast advertising campaigns to gain more membership.
“I’ve never seen anything promoting the Y in this area. It’s almost like they were coasting,” Tiesenga said. “I think there’s a lot they could have done.”
The letter sent to Red Bridge YMCA members stated that the facility would remain open through December 17, “as staffing allows.”
The YMCA welcomes comments on the closure. They can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.