Student fees already paying operating costs of campus YMCA not yet operating


Selena Favela

The Steve Clark YMCA and WSU Student Wellness Center, which will also house an urgent care center, is expected to open in January 2020.

The Steve Clark YMCA and WSU Student Wellness Center is no more than a construction site on Innovation Campus, but Wichita State paid the YMCA $2.5 million of student fees money in 2018.

No fees money is going towards the construction of the building itself, which is expected to open in January 2020, but WSU will pay the YMCA $2.5 million annually, according to a contract that appears on the WSU open records request log.

For a fourth semester, students are paying a tiered Health and Wellness fee that was instated after the Kansas Board of Regents approved a partnership in 2017 to bring the YMCA to campus. A student receiving in-state tuition and taking 15 credit hours a semester now pays $190 a year for the Health and Wellness Fee.

“The annual student fees paid to the Y, subject to inflationary increases, will cover operating and use costs,” a university FAQ on the YMCA partnership states.

WSU made two payments of $1.25 million in “Other Professional Fees” to the YMCA in 2018, according to KanView, a government transparency website run by the Kansas Department of Administration.

WSU Vice President for Finance and Administration Werner Golling, who signed the YMCA contract on behalf of the university, did not respond to The Sunflower’s questions about fee money paid out to the YMCA.

Vice President for Student Affairs Teri Hall said it made sense for WSU to start collecting the Health and Wellness Fee before the facility’s completion.

“The fee collection began before the building was finished so that students could immediately begin enjoying Y memberships throughout the metro area, and nationally, and to generate enough revenue for opening and operating costs of the university Y and WSU Student Wellness Center in 2020 and beyond,” Hall wrote in an email.

Thanks to the partnership, WSU students receive an automatic YMCA membership and have full access to all nine facilities in Sedgwick, Butler, and Harvey counties. Students who were already YMCA members when the partnership was approved were able to cancel their preexisting memberships in favor of the complementary student membership.

Hall said part of the initial $2.5 million the university paid the YMCA in 2018 went towards compensating the nonprofit for that loss of revenue.

“More than 4,000 students who were already dues-paying members of the Y before the agreement were able to stop paying those dues, so part of this commitment is to offset the Y’s losses from those memberships,” Hall wrote.

An adult membership through the Greater Wichita YMCA costs $465.60 a year. For 4,000 students, that adds up to nearly $1.9 million. However, that figure does not account for students who were on other types of memberships that they could have been removed from without an outright cancellation. Family memberships cost $646.80 a year.

There would be no way of calculating the YMCA’s actual revenue loss without a breakdown of pre-partnership student membership.

The campus facility will be open to the public. As a part of the contract, the YMCA will build a parking lot for visitors.

A year-long capital campaign that was co-chaired by Steve Clark, the new facility’s namesake, raised $13.8 million for the construction project — exceeding the original goal of $13.5 million. The WSU Board of Trustees has also committed $5 million to the project as part of its support for Innovation Campus, according to the university website.

Last May, the City of Wichita issued the YMCA $25 million in industrial revenue bonds — $17.5 million of which was allocated to the construction of the WSU facility.