A vision that was years in the making became a reality on Thursday at the corner of Griggs Rd. and Martin Luther King Blvd.
Texans chairman and CEO Bob McNair and his wife, Janice, helped cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Houston Texans YMCA, the first YMCA in the country to be named after a professional sports team.
"I can't tell you how proud I am," McNair said. "Really, to have the Texans' name associated with the YMCA, an organization that I have such great respect for, I just think it's wonderful, and I know the great work they do in the community and that's what we're interested in doing. To be partners with them is very special."
Seated on nearly five acres of land in the Palm Center Community of the Third Ward, the Houston Texans YMCA features a conference room, community room, gymnasium, group exercise rooms, cardiovascular fitness center, youth activity center, teen center, sports fields, playground, pool pavilion, outdoor pool and family spray park. It also includes a welcome center dedicated to the late Quentin R. Mease, founder of the South Central Family YMCA in 1948.
Plans for the new YMCA were first announced on March 25, 2008. The building's groundbreaking ceremony was later that year in December.
"It's a great day," South Central YMCA board chairman Alan Bergeron said on Thursday. "It's been a long time coming, and to have it with the partnership with the Texans and Mr. McNair, it's unbelievable. I can't describe to you the joy that we have. We're just giddy with excitement."
Located only six miles from Reliant Stadium, the Houston Texans YMCA also is in close proximity to Third Ward schools, a library, a city bus stop, a new housing development and a new light rail route – making it far more accessible to area residents than the old South Central YMCA on Wheeler St.
"The YMCA should be a vital part of every community, in my opinion, but this particular 'Y' will service a community of just under a quarter-of-a-million people, with about a third of those being under the age of 18, with a median household income of less than $29,000 a year," Bergeron said. "So we'll be servicing a community that really needs things that you find elsewhere.
"And a 'Y' such as this, it's a beautiful facility. It provides services that are very needed in this area, and it helps provide a future for millions of kids in our city."
McNair has fond childhood memories of going to the YMCA in Charlotte, N.C. He said it's where he was introduced to the game of football.
"It was just a wonderful experience and kept a lot of kids like myself out of trouble and pointed in the right direction," he said. "Just a wonderful experience."
The Houston Texans YMCA is the cornerstone of a larger partnership between the two organizations. In keeping with the Texans' goal of being the most community-connected professional sports franchise in the world, the team selected the YMCA as its primary strategic community partner. The Texans will work with YMCA staff to develop programming to benefit the children and the community served by the facility.
Texans president Jamey Rootes helped spearhead the team's unique partnership with the YMCA. He called it a "wonderful opportunity for us to make an impact in the community."
"We started with a vision of really narrowing the things that we do, on doing a few things and doing them exceedingly well, and really focused on becoming the 'Champions for Youth,'" Rootes said. "What a great way for us to do it with the YMCA facility, right down the street from Reliant Stadium. And certainly the building's fantastic, but the people, when they're here, with our players involved, our cheerleaders involved, the entirety of our organization coming out and making a difference, that's really going to be special."