County in talks of bringing YMCA to Pace

Ramon Rios | @RamonrSrpg | 850-623-2120 |
Michael Bodenhausen CEO of YMCA Northwest Florida talks to the Santa Rosa County Commission about partnerships with the YMCA. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

MILTON — Michael Bodenhausen, CEO of YMCA Northwest Florida spoke of the benefits a facility could bring to the Pace area during Monday's commissioners meeting.

The Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners is in favor of a new YMCA in the Pace area. The YMCA has been in discussion for years. Commissioner Sam Parker of District 1 thanked Bodenhausen for his work in keeping the idea alive and bringing it to the point where talks of partnership between county and the YMCA have begun.

Commissioner Parker said he was enthusiastic about the "continuous outpouring of folks," that want the YMCA.

In 2008, a market research study on needs assessments was completed and the results showed county residents wanted a YMCA by 98 percent. Ninety percent of residents also said they and their family members would use the facilities and 75 percent said they would be willing to make the project a success.

Bodenhausen, the YMCA and a company named PB&A decided to complete another market research study, paid for by the YMCA, in March of 2018 to see where residents stood, if their needs had changed. Ten years after the initial study the results were almost identical. Of the 21 needs identified in 2008, 18 remained the same after the 2018 results were compiled.

The study also asked residents how they would improve the quality of life in the county. Residents responded with 14 needs. Of those needs, Bodenhausen said the YMCA could directly affect five. Those needs are as follows: too much crime, positive things for youth to do, jobs for youth, and residents wanting a YMCA and programs to help students stay in school.

As far as interest in facilities, it was all about pools. Sixty percent wanted an indoor, multipurpose pool; 49 percent wanted an outdoor pool. Next was an indoor track at 41 percent, and social meeting areas came in at 39 percent.

Other findings of the study showed that partnerships between the YMCA and county ranked at 60 percent as excellent or good ideas by residents. The BOCC asked county administrator Dan Schebler to continue discussions with representatives of the YMCA and to prepare a solicitation of a public/private partnership with the YMCA for commissioners to review at the first of the year.

The YMCA has 1,700 branches, 15,000 members, 2,000 seniors, and 5,000 youth in their facilities and programs. The first YMCA in Florida was built in Pensacola in 1880.

"The YMCA is for everyone," Bodenhausen said.