CARTHAGE, Mo. — Fair Acres Family YMCA plans to purchase a 23,000-square-foot sports complex near the square on June 26 in an effort to expand its services to reach more children and teens throughout the community.
The YMCA will acquire and renovate the Game On building at 400 S. Maple St. with a $1.45 million grant through the McCune Brooks Regional Hospital Trust. Game On is an indoor sports complex with two basketball courts, batting cages and a concession stand.
Owners Paul and Michelle Heidlage put the building up for sale earlier this year. Jonathan Roberts, executive director of the Carthage YMCA, said that because there’s been a need to expand services, the opportunity to make an offer on the property was too good to pass up.
“We’ve been trying to find a way to get more involved with the junior high and high school age groups,” Roberts said. “Those are two very difficult age groups for us to even get programming for, so we want to be able to offer them something they can enjoy and not feel like they’re being policed, necessarily. The other thing is we’re packed. There are times at our Y that you can’t park or come in to do anything because of youth basketball games or practices.”
One of the YMCA's main goals is to use the space to provide free, healthy dinners to students in the seventh through 12th grades. Roberts hopes the Game On building can be a place that can help combat childhood obesity and inactivity.
“Sixty-four percent of children in Carthage — about 3,000 — have free or reduced lunch,” Roberts said. “We’ll do our program year-round. Schools will obviously complement them during the school year. Some of them eat lunch at 11:30 a.m., and they might not have another meal until breakfast. That’s a long time.”
Roberts said $850,000 of the $1.45 million grant will be used to purchase the property, and the remaining funds will be used for renovation work. The indoor batting cages will be converted into an indoor playground area for children ages 10 and younger.
“We’re going to have three to four inflatables that we’re going to put on top of a 40-foot football field,” Roberts said. “There will be giant foam toys where children can slide down or climb on them.”
The concession stand will be remade into a full kitchen where dinner will be made and served.
“Right now, all they have in the concession stand is a fridge and a freezer,” Roberts said. “We’re going to change that entire room into a commercial kitchen where we could push out anywhere from 400 to 600 meals a day. Then we’re putting in ranges in here where we can have cooking classes for adults or do date nights.”
Closing date set
Ozarks Food Harvest in Springfield serves as Fair Acres YMCA’s food sponsor. Caleb Stiles, food service director, said the building will be within walking distance of city wards 1 and 2, which have high rates of children who are food insecure.
“I’m going to take some of those commodities and dress them up to where they don’t just look like cafeteria food,” Stiles said. “We’ll do some other fun stuff like fresh bowls, which is where we’ll team up with local farmers to supply us with fruits and vegetables.”
The YMCA plans to officially close on the property on June 26 and have the doors open to the public as early as July 4. Only certain areas of the sports complex will be open during the construction of the playground and kitchen area.
The indoor playground construction is estimated to take three to four months, and the kitchen remodel should take about two months. Roberts said about $250,000 is budgeted for the kitchen renovation and $350,000 for the playground.
Once opened, the athletic complex will operate on weekdays. From 9 a.m. to noon, seniors will be able to play pickleball and badminton. The indoor playground area will be available from noon to 3 p.m. The complex will function as a free community center to anyone in junior high or high school from 3 to 5:30 p.m.
The name of the building will be changed to incorporate the YMCA, but the official title has not yet been decided. Roberts said the entire building could be in full operation by Jan. 1.