Could YMCA be coming to Oxford?

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – The YMCA may be coming to Oxford, and both the Y and the Oxford Park Commission members hope the two entities will be complementary rather than competitive.
“The Y’s interest in Oxford is one the worst-kept secrets anywhere,” Keith Johnson, president of YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South told commission members Wednesday.
The non-profit organization’s toehold may be through Baptist Memorial Health Care’s fitness center.
“We are in the process of discussing with Baptist potentially taking over the Healthplex,” Johnson said. “If we take over the Healthplex, the long-term goal would be to have a facility in Oxford.”
The Y and Baptist have not yet signed a contract, he said, but a letter of intent is in place.
The region’s YMCA facilities in greater Memphis and other Mid-South communities run a host of programs in sports, health and fitness, youths, at-risk teens and seniors, many of which are already in place in Oxford under the Park Commission.
Commission member Marvin King voiced the question on the minds of all his fellow members.
“One of the concerns is, if the Y comes in, how do we work together to keep from competing with each other?” he asked.
Johnson compared the YMCA’s aims in Oxford to those in its present outreach in Olive Branch, where the Y does not duplicate programs the city already has in place.
“We don’t have a written agreement about that, but that’s our understanding,” he said. “When we opened in Olive Branch, the mayor came to our board meeting and invited us.
“Our goal is to be part of the community,” he assured. “That doesn’t mean taking away from other parts of the community, as long as you’re doing it well.”
Johnson noted that the Y’s athletics do not typically address the needs of elite competitors.
“In most of our sports programs, our tendency is to do non-competitive, intro programs,” he said. “We want kids to be kids and learn how to play and enjoy it.”
Mayor Pat Patterson made clear that Oxford will not gladly yield programs into which it has made sizable investments of time and money.
“We welcome you to our community,” he told Johnson. “But let there be no mistake: We’d be foolish if we didn’t look at our options here.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com