Muncie Parks Department votes to pursue new YMCA project and close Downtown and Northwest branches

<p>Tuhey Park&#x27;s welcome sign stands at its entrance Dec. 8, 2020, at Tuhey Park. The park sits in the Riverside nieghborhood just off of White River. <strong>Maeve Bradfield, DN</strong></p><p></p>

Tuhey Park's welcome sign stands at its entrance Dec. 8, 2020, at Tuhey Park. The park sits in the Riverside nieghborhood just off of White River. Maeve Bradfield, DN

New and Improved

Muncie's new YMCA will include updated facilities. President and CEO of Muncie's YMCA Chad Zaucha shared plans for the new two-story facility: "All these projects don't come to fruition without partners." Here's what was proposed to be on each floor:

First Floor

  • Gymnasium
  • Aquatics
  • Youth development wing
  • Teaching kitchen
  • Multipurpose spaces
  • Partner spaces

Second Floor

  • Well-being space
  • Elevated walking track
  • Group cycling studio
  • Spirit, mind and body studios
  • Wellness center
  • Cardiovascular strength equipment

Source: Chad Zaucha

The mission of the YMCA of Muncie is “to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all,” said Chad Zaucha, president and CEO of Muncie’s YMCA.

To continue this mission, Zaucha presented plans to build what he called “Muncie’s living room” to the Muncie Parks Department at its Oct. 20 meeting. The department board voted in favor of moving forward with plans to build a new YMCA in Tuhey Park, closing the Downtown and Northwest branches and uniting them within a new facility.

Zaucha said the current facilities limit the YMCA’s overall impact on the Muncie community with efforts being spread thin between multiple facilities. He hopes building a singular YMCA in the center of Muncie will give the community a hub to gather and grow.

“Downtown is common ground,” he said, “so we want to create a true community center where everybody feels welcome to come together.”

Zaucha’s presentation shared that the proposed new YMCA would be built in the southern corner of Tuhey Park between North Street and West White River Boulevard. The building will be at least two stories high and contain an elevated track, a cycling studio and indoor lounge areas. Zaucha said the YMCA wants to partner with the City of Muncie to complete the project in an easily accessible area.

“By shrinking our footprint [and] realigning and repositioning our organization, we have the expertise to deliver partnerships, and that’s really the key to everything,” he said. “In order to deliver the impact we want to the community, we’re going to have to change how we’re set up.”

Beverly Kelley, vice president of the Muncie Parks Department, said she fears residents living near North Street may not approve of the plans. In years past, the parks department has attempted to close North Street, and Kelley said Muncie residents expressed “bad feelings” about the idea. Zaucha’s plans involve a similar change to allow for easy drop-off and pick-up as well as safer conditions for children.

Tuhey Tower stands in the middle of the park Dec. 8, 2020, at Tuhey Park. The park features a picnic table and shelter, playground, a pool and splash pad and green space. Maeve Bradfield, DN

Save Tuhey, a new movement organized by Muncie citizens, is one example of opposition to this project.

Heather Williams, associate director for community engagement at Ball State and a member of Save Tuhey, said Tuhey Park is a “promise” of investment into quality of life and quality of place in Muncie.

“If you lease and you build on Tuhey, you're not going to get that back,” Williams said. “As someone who studied urban planning, when you build on greenspace [and] you put the concrete down, more likely than not, it's never going to go back to green space. Its future from then on — it's going to be a built space.”

Williams bought her first house in Muncie, she said, and sees the park as her “backyard.” When her first house got too small, she bought the one next door.

“I'm invested as a homeowner, as a parent and as a landlord in this particular area, and I've always felt like this triangle — this little triangle of Muncie — is my home. It's my forever home,” Williams said.

Save Tuhey started shortly after a meeting between Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour and the Riverside/Normal City Neighborhood Association. 

Jeff Robinson, Muncie city council member, said that after Ridenour brought the idea to the park board in October, it set off “a chain of events.”

“The neighborhood associations took notice that are in that area, and [it] really became somewhat controversial at that point because new folks didn't have a lot of information on it,” he said.

On Dec. 1, Robinson called a land and traffic committee meeting to hear people's concerns over the project, he said. Three main issues came up during that meeting.

The first was residents' concerns over limited public park spaces in Muncie, Robinson said, as well as concerns of giving up space taxpayers have invested in.

The second concern was the idea of putting in a large building in the middle of historic neighborhoods.

The third was neighborhood residents felt there was a lack of engagement between them and the city.

“That's something that's very important in this community and every community, frankly, is that the public is engaged early in the process — to be able to offer valuable input to see if this is something that the community could be OK with,” Robinson said.

Robinson said he has spoken to Ridenour, adding that the mayor doesn’t plan on bringing anything to the city council about this project in January, as he understands.

However, with the plans Zaucha presented alongside Ridenour, Ridenour said approximately 80 percent of North Street would remain open to the public.

“Currently, North Street goes all the way through,” Ridenour said. “What I am looking at doing is I would like to shut off North Street so that it no longer becomes a through street. I would put a circle drive there so that people can come in, go to the park, turn around and go back out.”

With multiple concerns going around about the project, Ridenour said he wants the city to have input on the final decision.

Now that Zaucha has the approval he needs from the Muncie Parks Department to move forward with this project, he wants to build a “world-class facility that can revolve around whole- person health and empower individuals to live purposeful and transformational lives.”

“This is a once-in-a-generation effort, a once-in-a-generation campaign,” he said. “I hope that we can work together to achieve this for our community.”

Contact Taylor Smith with comments at or on Twitter @taynsmithh. Contact Charles Melton with comments at or on Twitter @Cmelton144.


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