Winchester YMCA closing Friday for good

Published 1:09 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Winchester YMCA announced this morning it will shut its doors permanently Friday, ending a three-year effort to revitalize the organization.

The YMCA posted a letter on its Facebook page this morning from Board of Directors Chairman Brian Thomas announcing the closure.

“Like so many businesses and other nonprofit organizations in the area, the Winchester YMCA has been adversely affected in recent years by the economic downturn,” the letter read. “Due to declining membership and donations, and the costs associated with maintaining an aging facility, our Y does not have the financial resources necessary to operate on a long-term basis.”

Thomas said the decision was made during a board meeting Monday night

“We’ve been having discussion s with the national YMCA about our financial viability,” Thomas said Tuesday afternoon. “After looking at our year-to-date numbers, we made the decision to go on and close.”

The Winchester Y was on the verge of closing three years ago with about $600,000 in debt. Thomas was one of the new board members at that time, and the charter continued on a conditional status. The board  brought the debt down to $450,000, he said, but the facility is still losing money.

“We have an aging facility with a never-ending list of maintenance items,” he said. “One of our biggest problems was the outdoor pool. You can’t operate a pool at a loss. We had declining membership. We had to make a tough decision.”

The letter said the fitness facility at 645 Westmeade Drive will close at 5 p.m. Friday. After-school childcare will continue until Dec. 30; Thomas said the Y reached an agreement with Calvary Christian Church to add the YMCA clients so parents won’t have to scramble to find an alternative.

The Y’s youth basketball program, which Thomas called one of the biggest in the state, will continue until the season ends Feb. 17, 2017.

The Paris-Bourbon County and Central Kentucky YMCAs will offer guest passes for Winchester members, he said, and discussions are ongoing to keep the Silver Sneakers program going.

The Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation Department said Tuesday afternoon it would officer all YMCA members a free pass good through the end of January.

Though the board made progress on reducing the debt, Thomas said it wasn’t enough.

“It’s an unfortunate situation all the way around,” he said. “As we pay off our debt, our facility gets older” and personnel costs continue to rise.

“It’s with great sadness this ride comes to a conclusion,” he said. “We have done our best to continue the mission that was started 25, 26 years ago.”

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@bluegrassnewsmedia.com or call 859-759-0051.

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