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Published: Tuesday, 12/15/2009

South Toledo YMCA to close for good on Dec. 21

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Paul Schlatter, chairman of the YMCA's board of trustees, says the decision was difficult. Paul Schlatter, chairman of the YMCA's board of trustees, says the decision was difficult.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo announced yesterday that it will close the South Toledo YMCA for good Dec. 21 as a result of the branch's continued money loss and failed membership drive.

"This has been a difficult decision for our board to make," Paul Schlatter, trustees board chairman, said at a morning news conference in Y headquarters near downtown Toledo. "There's probably not a heavier heart in this room than mine or these trustees."

The organization says it's losing about $5,000 a week in operations at the branch on Woodsdale Park Road, which opened in 1954 and is the oldest operating YMCA in the Toledo system. The annual loss at that pace would amount to $260,000.

The membership campaign, fully launched in late September, netted the approximate equivalent of 118 memberships, "well short of our goal" of 376, Mr. Schlatter said. The organization also raised $2,396 in cash donations, and donors have the option of a refund or directing their money to the YMCA's annual scholarship campaign.

YMCA officials initially sought to close the branch in late August and give the property to CedarCreek Church. Following an outcry from members and neighbors, the Y held off on closing to allow for a membership campaign. The YMCA agreed to lower an earlier goal of 500 members to 376, the "break-even" mark for the building's finances.

CedarCreek Church has since scrapped its plans to acquire the YMCA property and spend up to $2 million to convert the building into a church. Executive Pastor Ed McCauley said yesterday that CedarCreek is now negotiating for another property in South Toledo, which he declined to identify.

Mr. Schlatter said the YMCA is in talks with several parties for uses of the South Y land. The Y is also working with the University of Toledo and the Margaret Hunt Senior Center for a possible new full-service South Toledo branch on UT's Health Science Campus, formerly the Medical College of Ohio.

Mr. Schlatter could not guarantee that the next new branch would be built in South Toledo but said "the likelihood of having the next YMCA in South Toledo is extremely high."

Cooper Suter, an early and outspoken member of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens and Y Members, said he is not sure what else the community can do to keep the South Y open. He said the YMCA's leaders made the membership drive "a hamstrung effort from its conception."

"It was always going to close. That was always their game plan. They disingenuously took advantage of the good intent and the good faith of members of the coalition … and strung this out and made it a PR success," he said. "They can try and shift the blame from them, who let it get [run down] over 20 years, to us, who tried to save it in two months."

Mr. Suter and other coalition members have said they might support razing the South Y and converting it back to park land.

South Toledo YMCA members may now cancel their memberships without penalty, although Mr. Schlatter urged them to stay on and visit the Morse Center YMCA, an exercise-focused facility about 1 1/2 miles away on the University of Toledo's Health Science Campus.

Those who bought a two-year, branch-only South Y membership during the membership drive will have their membership upgraded to Max status at their current reduced rate of $40 a month for an individual or $50 for a family until December, 2011.

Max memberships are welcome at any YMCA in the Toledo system.

Current South Y Max members living in the 43609 or 43614 ZIP codes also will have their monthly membership rates reduced to the $40 or $50 prices, Mr. Schlatter said.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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