Deal would allow First Baptist to purchase downtown YMCA

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It has been a downtown Columbia landmark for more than a century, but it appears the YMCA building on Sumter Street will change hands within the next few months.

The building is up for sale and Columbia's First Baptist Church is looking to buy. The deal is on and could be completed within the next couple of months, but that does not mean the downtown Y is closing right away.

The Downtown Y sits on a block in which every other space is controlled or occupied by First Baptist Church. The church's pastor, Dr. Wendell Estes, says First Baptist was making plans to construct another new building when the Y decided to sell.

"We were in the process of planning to build a new building that would be on the Sumter and Washington border and that was going to be used for student needs, college needs and so forth," Estep says. "And so we were in the process of doing that when we were approached concerning the Y."

The Y and the church are now working out an agreement.

YMCA spokesman Brian Madden tells us the organization is adamant about continuing to have a presence in downtown Columbia. He says the Y does not have a specific new location in mind right now.

The Y would not move out of the Sumter Street building for as much as another year and a half.

Some Y  members only found out about the deal within the last few days and some are not terribly happy about it.

"The members and camaraderie that's been established in this gym I definitely think there would be some you know upset clients and be some protesting going on with what everybody has experienced in the past," YMCA member Baxter Smith says.

However some members see it a sign of the times.

"This is a historic building and when you go in there and walk down the hall and there's pictures and bond issues from 1905, I mean it's a historic place and it gives you a sense of place," YMCA member Palmer Freeman says. "But things have got to move on. Columbia High School is not here anymore and you know, everything changes."

The organization is promising to stay in the downtown area, in fact the director says there is "No doubt in the world about that."

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