When the sun rose April 15, 2012, and the pain of the tornado could be witnessed in full color, Southern Prairie YMCA on the corner of Townline and Green Valley Road looked relatively unharmed.
It looked, from the outside, like it had escaped the twister’s wrath, especially when compared to neighboring structures like Green Hills AEA building and Creston Park Apartments, which laid in shambles less than 200 yards away.
“The building looks OK outside, but inside we received a lot of water damage,” SPYMCA Director Jacki Steffen said, at the time. “The air-conditioning units located on top of the building were blown off or moved during the storm and left gaping holes in the roof.”
The swimming pool’s dehumidification system was tossed off the roof by the tornado. The gaping holes in the roof caused water damage to ruin both the basketball and racquetball courts.
Originally, Y staff predicted the building would be closed for one month, but because of the extent of the damage, conflict with insurance companies and the Y staff’s decision to renovate the building it did not reopen until three months after the tornado hit.
For those three months, the Y setup a temporary location for members at the former Lincoln School. Free weights, fitness classes and cardio machines were moved to that location.
The Y partially reopened in August making the weight room, cardio room and track available to members and the public.
In September, the gymnasium floor was installed and members began using the space. Also, the women’s locker room area was being renovated, new family changing area was underway and the pool was cleaned, freshly painted and awaiting the dehumidification system.
The dehumidification system was installed and the pool reopened in early November. A locker room project — scheduled to begin this year — was completed through community donations a year early and unveiled during the Y’s grand reopening in January.
“I really felt we were back in full force in January,” Steffen said. “The last year certainly had its challenges. It was tough coming to work everyday with no members in the facility because our bread and butter is the relationships we build with our members. But, with reflection, it’s been a positive year. We finished the locker-room project a year ahead of schedule and gave this place an overall facelift. Would I want to go through another tornado? No. But, the staff was wonderful and really stepped up.”
Today, the YMCA and its new facelift continues to grow stronger. Steffen reports they have a record high 2,200 individuals or 1,400 units in membership — a record high since she’s been the director.
“Our memberships are up 2 percent over the last year,” Steffen said. “I think there are a couple reasons for that. One, I think the Creston community has become more health conscious, and we are getting the fallout from that, and also I think people enjoy the facelift at the facility, and people missed being at the Y when it was closed.”