Community meeting

Muncie widely opposes YMCA Tuhey Park plan at community meeting

Muncie residents spoke out against a proposal to build a YMCA headquarters on what is currently a city park and pool at a meeting Tuesday night. As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, park neighbors and the wider community say privatization for Y opportunities isn’t worth the loss of public spaces in the park.

Although the YMCA and city officials say it’s a concept, not a formal proposal, there is already a bird’s eye view of the site and a price tag. YMCA CEO Chad Zaucha said the organization will need to raise $20 million to construct a large new building and parking lot with possibly 170 to 300 parking spaces on the current green space at Tuhey Park, adjacent to the swimming pool and the Tuhey playground.

And although it’s not a municipal project, Councilman Jeff Robinson asked Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour, “Do you support this project?”

The mayor replied, “Looking at the plan, I think that’s the best location.”

Ridenour says he would like to lease the public land to the Y, not sell or trade it, as other Indiana towns have done.

Read more: YMCA makes case for move to Tuhey Park; Community members are not convinced

The group of “Friends of Tuhey” demonstrated in the parking lot of the town hall before the meeting. (Photo: Friends of Tuhey on Facebook)

Two neighborhoods near Tuhey Park say they oppose privatization. Beth Messner is part of the Riverside-Normal City Neighborhood Association.

“For the residents of Muncie, who will have to pay a fee for the use of public lands that should be available to them at no cost, given that they are funded by their hard-earned tax dollars.”

Due to COVID restrictions, residents have been asked to submit statements by email. Over 100 have done so. Robinson says 105 opposed using Tuhey Park, and three supported it.

During the live public comment period, Jama Clark says she exercises and teaches at the Y because it’s now downtown.

“Being a member of the YMCA has been an integral part of who I have grown over the past few years. I work downtown. If I hadn’t had access to the downtown YMCA, I wouldn’t be part of this organization.

Andy Shears, who grew up in Muncie and owns the Muncie Map Co. says he found six alternate sites for the Y move.

And he added, “When I was growing up, we couldn’t afford to be a member. Nothing was offered to us in return. We couldn’t afford it.

Zaucha and Y staff say the organization now offers scholarships and discounted prices to eligible residents.

The Muncie Parks Board already approved the proposal in October, but no proposal is currently up for a vote by Muncie City Council. At the end of the committee meeting, Robinson did not seek the committee members’ opinion.

“But I’ll tell you,” Robinson says, “I listen to my constituents and it’s in my district. Clearly people are very passionate about this park space. I urge the YMCA to continue to investigate other more appropriate options – something the community can support.

Last summer, the Y helped the city operate the Tuhey Pool legally, so it could stay open. Asked by city council members, Zaucha said if the Y doesn’t get the Tuhey Park location, it will continue to help run the pool – calling the organization a good community partner.