Downtown GR YMCA changes teen guest policy

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Youth guests visiting the downtown Grand Rapids YMCA will now have to be signed in by a member.

24 Hour News 8 is uncovering the reasons for the change in policy for the organization that serves over 184,000 people in the Grand Rapids area.

Under the new policy, if a guest is 17 or under, an adult member will have to sign them in to the David D. Hunting YMCA. Youth members will not need to be signed in.

While YMCA officials deny it’s the sole reason for the change, the new policy comes after a scuffle in the downtown Y lobby on Jan. 31.

Grand Rapids police were called to the building at 475 Lake Michigan Drive NW after, according to a police report, “Two callers stated there was large group fighting and hitting each other with chairs” in the lobby.

The alleged fight was over by the time officers arrived. No arrests were made.

Members got this notice Feb. 16:

“Effective immediately for youth ages 17 and under:

  • “Family Memberships: any youth guest, ages 17 and under, will need the adult Y member (age 18+) present at the Member Service Desk to sign the guest pass form.
  • “17 and Under Memberships: a parent of the 17 and under member *will need to be present *at the Member Service Desk to sign the guest pass form.
  • “All guests will have their photo taken for identification purposes.”

Teens 17 and under who show up without an adult member can still use the staff-supervised Teen Center on the first floor of the downtown Y.

Y officials appeared reluctant to answer question on camera about the change, canceling a scheduled interview Thursday morning.

Late in the day, they released a  this statement:

“The YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all our members, guests and participants. On an on-going basis we review our policies to ensure that we are providing an environment where individuals and families can meet their health and wellness goals. Our recent policy change at the David D. Hunting YMCA is a demonstration of our on-going commitment to providing the best experience to members, guests and participants of the Y.”

Over the phone, YMCA Executive Director Johnathan Pope denied the Jan. 27 incident was a direct result of that review.

Pope said the large number of young people using the Y during this extreme weather was also a factor.

There have been problems at the downtown Y location, which opened in 2005, in the past.

In 2009, two people were shot in the parking lot outside the Y after a dispute that started in the building.

24 Hour News 8 obtained Grand Rapids police statistics on the number of times officers were called to the Y during a nine-month period last year. There were a total of nine calls for service between February and November of 2013.

That is not a large number for a facility that hosts a large number of people,  according to GRPD.

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