City debating move for Benjamin Barnes YMCA
By WVUA 23 News Reporters Valarie Bracken and Karnera Gafford
West Tuscaloosa’s Benjamin Barnes YMCA could be moving to a new location as part of efforts to revitalize the branch.
On Tuesday, the Tuscaloosa City Council tabled their vote for the branch’s future, but their current frontrunner is moving Benjamin Barnes to the McDonald Hughes Community Center. Other location potentials include keeping the YMCA branch where it is, the former Stillman Heights Elementary School property, Pecan Grove or Dragons Lane.
The community center is 1.2 miles away from Benjamin Barnes YMCA, and city leaders said the location is underutilized compared with other centers in Tuscaloosa.
YMCA of Tuscaloosa CEO Jeff Knox said the branch is overdue for a big makeover.
“What will be new gymnasiums, new classrooms, potentially child development, an aquatic facility is a possibility as well,” Knox said. “Things that the community has not had an opportunity for, or certainly not in a facility they deserve.”
District 2 Tuscaloosa City Council Member Raevan Howard said the community center offers a lot of space, meaning the city’s $10 million budget for Benjamin Barnes YMCA renovations will go a lot further there than anywhere else.
“I hope the community can just dream with me a little bit,” Howard said. “We have money in our budget already for Phase 2 of the McDonald Hughes Center. I envision it being able to add all of the infrastructure, all the lights and sidewalks and gutters, all of those nice finishes that make a project complete.”
Howard said building a better YMCA in West Tuscaloosa will help its residents thrive and have pride in District 2.
The council will vote on the topic again March 29.