Friday, November 7, 2008

The Y helps economy

Some said it couldn't be done. Others said it shouldn't be done.

Approaching the end of its first year of operation, the YMCA has put both contentions to rest and succeeded beyond its own expectations. Organizers had forecast that the multi-use facility would attract 3,000 members the first year and require a complement of employees to serve them.

Instead, by mid summer nearly 6,000 members had signed up. Significant numbers of drop-in users also discovered the facilities. That required expansion of its part-time work force from 80 to 200. That's a lot of paychecks whose recipients pump money back into the local economy.

The family-friendly pools are the big draw at the facility and are rarely unoccupied. More than one local resident has been flagged down on the street by a harried parent driving a van full of squealing kids and asking directions to the community pool. The workout center, the climbing wall and basketball area have provided what visiting teenagers could never find before: a place to meet and interact with others that doesn't involve a fake I.D.

The Y has made a lot of visiting families very happy—happy enough to vacation in the valley repeatedly. It's an important amenity for visitors, which is critical as the valley copes with the national financial crisis engulfing resort towns.

The economic importance of the Y is also evidenced by property owners who list proximity to the Y as one of the benefits of rentals or properties for sale.

The decision by the city of Ketchum to lease land to the Y has turned out to be a good investment. It's something to remember when change again comes to call.

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