Posted on September 24, 2014

YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids breaks ground on the new Mary Free Bed YMCA

Grand Rapids, Mich. – The YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids broke ground today on a new $30 million facility in Cascade Township which will be the first-of-its-kind Y in the nation to comprehensively implement universal design to serve individuals of all abilities. To commemorate its 125th anniversary, the Mary Free Bed Guild is investing in this project, which will be called The Mary Free Bed YMCA.

The new 116,200-square-foot LEED-Certified Mary Free Bed YMCA, which will replace the 35-year-old current Southeast Y, will be located on a 36-acre parcel of land on the southwest corner of Kraft and Burton. The Y will be a “center for collaboration” that will incorporate traditional Y health and wellness activities and programs with a unique level of universal design to create an integrated facility that collectively serves the needs of individuals with all levels of ability. It will also house a Healthy Living Center dedicated to creating innovative community solutions to empower individuals to live well.

“We are incredibly grateful to members of the Mary Free Bed Guild for both their generous monetary support and the true collaboration they have demonstrated as we have worked together for the past three years to make this shared vision a reality,” said Ron Nelson, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. “They have displayed incredible patience and unwavering support as the Y worked through the lengthy process of locating and securing the right property to house this first of its kind project. We are absolutely thrilled to finally be breaking ground on this project and publicly announcing the Mary Free Bed Guild as our partner.”

The Mary Free Bed YMCA debuts a new model for the Y; a destination campus for collaboration, designed specifically for innovation and inclusion. With universal design, products and environments are created so the greatest number of disabled and able-bodied individuals can successfully use them and participate in programming. The Mary Free Bed YMCA will include the Y’s traditional facility features, but will also have unique programs focused on healthy living, active aging, and youth leadership to expand the Y’s impact on its members, program participants and the broader West Michigan community.

“We’re thrilled to make this investment,” said Kim Ridings, Guild President. “We’ve worked closely with the YMCA for many years and our growing partnership greatly benefits our patients and the entire community. Our patients will come here for recreational therapy. Our Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports Program, which serves approximately 700 athletes every year, will call this home. But just as important, West Michigan residents with disabilities will be able to exercise and enjoy sports without restrictions found in conventionally designed facilities. We’re thrilled about the many opportunities for people of all abilities at the Mary Free Bed YMCA.”

The Mary Free Bed YMCA will feature a 36-acre campus, the centerpiece of which will be a fully accessible and integrated health and wellness facility. The facility will feature an indoor aquatics center, sports courts, group fitness classrooms, state-of-the-art fitness area, indoor track, a teaching kitchen, greenhouse, and learning classrooms. The campus will also feature an outdoor sports complex that will include sports fields and tennis courts, as well as an activity trail, a children’s playground, wheelchair softball field, and a farm-to-table program, including a community garden on-site.

“To say this new facility will be a significant upgrade to the current one is an understatement.  It will be like no other YMCA in the country and will stand as a model for collaboration and inclusion – one of the Y’s core values, for others to follow,” said Nelson.

Progressive AE is serving as the architect on the project and Rockford Construction will manage the construction.

About the Y – The Y is West Michigan’s leading nonprofit strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.  Through its seven branches, Camp Manitou-Lin, and over 23 program sites, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids is committed to improving the health and well-being of children and families.  Y programs impact thousands of lives annually and respond to unique community needs across West Michigan. Visit

About Mary Free Bed Guild – In 1891, a small group of Grand Rapids women, concerned about health care for the needy, embarked on a fundraising effort. They asked residents to donate a dime if they knew someone named Mary. The successful campaign resulted in what became known as the Mary free bed. The growing group of women incorporated as The Mary Free Bed Guild of Grand Rapids in 1911. Between the 1930s and 1950s, the Guild began treating and rehabilitating children with an increasing number of diagnoses. In the 1960s, care was expanded to include adults and outpatient services. Today, more than 120 women are members of the Mary Free Bed Guild which has governance oversight for Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and its many services.