Groups step up to help YMCA members

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, December 14, 2016

With the Winchester YMCA set to close Friday afternoon, a number of fitness organizations are stepping forward to help Y members.

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

According to the Y’s Facebook page, the Central Kentucky and Paris-Bourbon County YMCAs are offering free passes to Winchester Y members. CrossFit Strode Station is offering a free four-week introduction. Winchester Parks and Recreation is offering free passes through January, while Anytime Fitness, Fitness Solutions and Transformation Personal Training are all offering specials for Y members.

The YMCA posted a letter on its Facebook page Tuesday 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 acquired in 1999 through a loan to pay for the Dick Gamble Gymnasium. The Y pursued partnerships with other entities, including the Clark County Board of Health, to help service the debt, but no agreements were ever reached.

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.

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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