Downtown YMCA set to become Community Youth Center

Dec. 2, 2019

The downtown Sioux Falls Family YMCA will become the Community Youth Center early next year if enough funds can be raised to buy the building.

Since the Bowden Youth Center left downtown, a growing number of kids in the Pettigrew and Whittier neighborhoods have been using the YMCA, said Craig Lloyd, chairman of Lloyd Cos., who is helping lead the fundraising drive.

He estimates more than 100 kids age 6 through 17 use the building and programs daily.

“For many of them, it’s the only place it’s safe, and they can have a small meal at night,” he said. “A lot of them stay until 9:30 or 10 p.m. because they don’t want to go home.”

While the demand from kids for services has increased, the number of fitness memberships has dropped over time. It makes sense to convert the 38,000-square-foot space to a youth center that could offer programming from multiple nonprofits, Lloyd said.

Those include the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sioux Empire.

“They have programming – tutoring, counseling, life skills – and the Y has an after-school program and sports,” Lloyd said. “We’re looking at this as a gathering place you can come for sports and go for tutoring, help with homework … and we’re going to teach life skills – applying for a job, what’s a credit card for, how to rent apartment, what are drugs and alcohol.”

Research has shown nearly half of families in the Pettigrew and Whittier areas live in poverty, he said. The hours between 3 and 6 p.m. are peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, tobacco and sex.

“We have to change the culture. We can’t let the culture keep on,” Lloyd said. “That is our motto: To change the culture and make people responsible.”

Program pillars include:

  • Career development
  • Academic success
  • Character development
  • Leadership development
  • Healthy lifestyles
  • Food security
  • Regular attendance

Lloyd will host an informational lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. It’s free, and those interested in attending can RSVP to or call 605-275-4260.

The building, which is valued at $5 million, is available to purchase for $2.5 million after an anonymous donation of $1.1 million and Lloyd raised $1.2 million. An additional $500,000 is needed for maintenance and other costs. Pledges can be made over three years.

Lloyd is joined in the fundraising effort by John Archer, Tyler Haahr and Jon Oien. Others are welcome to join, he said.

“We know if we get the building paid off and turn it into a community center with other nonprofits participating that it will break even, and all these nonprofits will be more profitable because they won’t have to rent facilities,” Lloyd said.

The Community Youth Center hopes to transition the building early next year and collaborate with the Empower Campus planned in nearby east Sioux Falls on the former School for the Deaf campus. Lloyd estimates the number of kids served in the Y likely will double.

The downtown location is ideal for kids who can walk to it and flexible enough to evolve its programs and services to meet the neighborhood’s needs, he said.

“That’s why it’s important to get this thing on a new path and new beginning,” Lloyd said. “I’m excited about it. It’s going to be a great use for the building.”

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Downtown YMCA set to become Community Youth Center

If fundraising comes together, the YMCA will become the Community Youth Center, aimed at serving nearby neighborhoods.

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