Phelps County Bank unveils plans for new ownership of Springfield’s historic Ward Downtown YMCA building

Published: May. 5, 2023 at 6:53 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The new owners of the historic Ward Downtown YMCA visited Springfield on Friday and met with KY3 about their plans for the building.

Phelps County Bank, based in Rolla, purchased the former home of the YMCA for $2 million after the Ozarks Regional YMCA closed the downtown facility in March because of declining membership and the high cost of maintaining the 110-year-old building that first opened in 1913.

“The first time we laid eyes on this building we were intrigued,” said Dominic DeLuca, the CEO of Phelps County Bank.

The bank has four locations in its home county, but this will be its first-ever expansion outside of Phelps County.

“Springfield is a thriving, large community with a small-town feel,” DeLuca said. “It just feels so much like the market we’re currently operating in. We think it has a lot of opportunity for growth.”

While the Phelps County Bank will be new to Springfield, taking over a historic building is nothing new as its main location in Rolla is the old Edwin Long Hotel, on the National Register of Historic Places, where 8,000 people gathered in 1931 to celebrate the grand opening of Route 66.

“I’m not sure if the buildings have found us or we found them, but we have an appreciation for the manner in which these older buildings were built to last,” DeLuca said. “A lot of work was put into them, and they have strong foundations. We like to think that’s how we’re building our bank in doing it the hard way and the slow way and not the easy way. So we are drawn to those kinds of projects. We don’t look for an easy way out but instead, look to find what’s going to add the most value to the community.”

While the bank plans on keeping all of the original 1913 parts of the old YMCA which is about 32,000 square feet, the 30,000 square-foot addition built in 1971 will be torn down to make room for more parking as well as solar-powered drive-thru windows pioneered by Missouri S&T.

So some of the YMCA’s amenities will not survive the remodeling like the last-remaining pool that had been closed for several years.

“Unfortunately the pool has to go,” DeLuca said. “We’ll be converting the swimming lanes to drive-thru lanes.”

One of the old YMCA’s two gyms will also be torn down while the other gym will be repurposed as the new lobby area.

The YMCA’s old lobby and the 2nd floor will be restored to the building’s original architectural look. The third-and-fourth floors will eventually become office space. The third floor, which contains work-out equipment, is one of several areas that have been repurposed before as it at one time had been the home of rental rooms.

Hotel-like rooms with bathrooms down the hall, called dormitories or residences, were designed into every new YMCA building until the late 1950′s. And that lodging choice was made famous by the Village People’s 1978 hit “YMCA” where they proclaimed it was “Fun to stay at the YMCA.”

While the YMCA will be vacating the building after hosting a series of summer camps for kids, the Phelps County Bank hopes to keep the YMCA’s community spirit alive by being involved in civic endeavors and maintaining strong ties to its new service area.

Remodeling the historic YMCA building at a cost of at least $4 million is one way they’re showing their commitment and the desire to integrate themselves into the community is in part due to the fact that the bank is employee-owned.

“We’re one of only five-or-six in the country that are 100 percent employee-owned,” DeLuca said. “Every employee that you deal with at the bank is an owner.”

“You’re not a renter, you’re an owner,” said Jessica Beucler, the Chief Risk Officer at the bank. “So you have something at-stake at that business. You also have a group of people who are family to you which brings the community aspect to it. I’m very excited. I have family that lives in Springfield as so many of us do. So taking what we have in Phelps County and bringing it to Springfield is a gift that we get to share.”

“Downtowns are the hearts of our communities,” DeLuca added. “And we want to be right in the middle of the action. So much money and effort has been invested in the Springfield revitalization, and we’re excited to be a part of that.”

The bank will start renovations this fall and hopes to be moved in sometime in 2025.

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