Engineering More Than Just Buildings

January 5, 2021

Engineering isn’t just about creating great design; it’s about building better communities. Good engineering accounts for the impact new facilities and infrastructure will have on the surrounding community with a focus on improving the lives of those who live there, which is why partnering with the Greater Wichita YMCA is an easy choice for us.

The YMCA’s vision is to build strong kids, strong families and strong communities. Our work to design and improve YMCA facilities is helping to strengthen communities throughout the Wichita area and builds on our core values of trust, mutual respect, integrity, responsibility and humility.

“Everything we do at the Greater Wichita YMCA is centered around excellence and offering state-of-the-art experiences and facilities that exceed expectations,” said Ronn McMahon, President and CEO of the Greater Wichita YMCA. “It’s important to us that our partners share our ideals and commitment to high quality, and that is exactly what we have found with MKEC Engineering. MKEC has been instrumental in enhancing the visitor experience at our facilities, and we look forward to more collaborations in the future.”

“Everything we do at the Greater Wichita YMCA is centered around excellence and offering state-of-the-art experiences and facilities that exceed expectations.”

Ronn McMahon, President and CEO of the Greater Wichita YMCA

Over the years we’ve been fortunate to provide engineering support for a number of YMCA facilities. As we look forward to a brand new year, we’re also looking back at how together, we’ve helped give back to the community we love.

Accessible to the community

We started our relationship with the Greater Wichita YMCA in 1996 with the South branch, performing the civil engineering for this $7 million facility including the main building, parking lots, pool, and sports field. Later expansions included the popular Farha Center and Garvey Center which are known for the consistent hosting of basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer events.

A challenge that quickly emerged as the vision for the South Y expanded was the increased traffic flow when entering and exiting the property, especially on days where hundreds of families were gathering to watch their kids participate in sports. Our solution was to implement an extended left-turn lane that ensured a safer, more efficient entry drive. With help from the city, the installation of a traffic light put the final touch to reduce backed up traffic.

When the Y expanded into the City of Andover, the challenge was to fit all the main campus, outdoor aquatic center, sports fields and Farha Center onto the 17-acre plot. Our team rolled up their sleeves to find a solution that would work. With constant dialogue with the architect, we were able to adapt the plans to work within the realities of the given site. It was a complete effort that resulted in a tremendous facility boasting an elite sports training and competition venue. Boasting over 30 volleyball and basketball courts, this facility is an attractive location year-round.

Serving families

The YMCA sets out to serve families. One avenue is their Early Learning Centers (ELCs) hosted in several Y branches. As emphasized on their website, ELCs offer an atmosphere for learning and fun where children and families feel secure, comfortable, and important.

Because of this successful program at the East YMCA, a traffic problem quickly emerged. Pick up and drop offs at the main entrance were causing a multitude of efficiency and safety issues in the parking lot. To resolve this, the YMCA involved us from the start to design a solution that not only addressed this problem, but also expanded the existing campus with a building addition.

We analyzed circulation traffic flow and pedestrian conflicts. Our solution was to move the entrance to the back side of the building and create a designated drop off area for the ELC. This new and improved circular drop off point not only reduced the backing up of cars but also improved safety for anyone walking to the entrance from the parking lot.

Being a good neighbor

An important part of YMCA’s vision is to build stronger communities. The Northwest YMCA construction had the potential to have a negative impact on the neighbors because of the flood plain running through the property. However, with our help the Y was able to demonstrate the construction would not exacerbate flooding problems, allowing the community to reap all the benefits of the YMCA without the downsides they’d anticipated.

In the early planning stages, we met with the neighbors to explain the plan, listened to their concerns, and then designed a solution that would work for everyone. We were able to create more volume for flooding in other places, to ease any potential problems they may have encountered.

Thanks in part to a team that was willing to take the time to understand constituents’ concerns and to conduct careful planning to avoid flooding problems, the Northwest YMCA now serves people throughout northwest Wichita and western Sedgwick County.

Building strong adults

Our most recent YMCA project involved a unique partnership with Wichita State University. The Steve Clark YMCA and Wellness Center is located on WSU’s campus and is intended to serve both students, who receive a membership as part of their tuition, and the surrounding public.

As with the East YMCA, early interaction with the architects allowed us to give input on the site design, which included taking into account the high volume of pedestrian traffic in that area. Strategically placed within the newer Innovation Campus, we knew there would be significant foot traffic on a daily basis. As this building resides between much of WSU’s campus and several recently constructed student apartments, many students pass by to and from class and other on-campus activities. To ensure this facility would provide an interactive experience, our final design created a pedestrian corridor through the building.

In addition, this YMCA facility houses the Student Wellness Center which offers comprehensive wellness services to better serve the physical, mental and emotional health needs of students. Aligning directly with the mission of providing healthy living and learning experiences for adults and kids.

Partnering beyond projects

Our partnership with the YMCA doesn’t stop when each project ends; we believe in supporting the YMCA’s mission and vision with more than just our engineering expertise. In fact, since 2009 MKEC has been a Strong Community Champion Donor, our Vice President, Greg Allison has served on the board of the Greater Wichita YMCA since 2010, and we’re proud sponsors of the Y’s Late Night program for teens, the annual Golf Classic and Bowl-A-Thon.

“Our partnership with the YMCA allows us to utilize our abilities and talents as engineers by playing a part in the Y’s mission – serving and making a difference in our community.”

Greg Allison, Vice President of MKEC

Each project has come with its own engineering challenges, but the rewards have been the same – lives are being changed for the better through the YMCA’s services and programs. While the facilities themselves are important, it’s what happens inside these buildings and on the sports fields that makes these projects so rewarding—long after our job is complete.

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*Please note that some of these pictures were taken before Covid-19. The YMCA is following all of the recommended protocols to maintain safe facilities.