YMCA reports decrease in revenue, closing two pools
BATON ROUGE - The YMCA says money is getting tighter. Out of nine branches in the capital region, two are losing their indoor pools.
The C.B. Pennington Jr. and Southside YMCA branches are closing the indoor pool services to members, leaving the sole indoor pool at A.C. Lewis.
In an email sent to members, YMCA Capital Area President and CEO Christian Engle reports that membership has been down since the August 2016 flood. The YMCA's reserve funding is down because most of it went toward reopening the C.B. Pennington Jr. branch following significant flooding damage in 2016. Engle says the cost to make repairs to the Pennington Y cost about $1.2 million. The YMCA was hoping to be reimbursed with federal funding by FEMA but that reimbursement was denied.
The work the YMCA has done to raise the funds to replenish that reserve funding has not been enough, which means tough decisions have been made.
"We have to respond to what the community is looking for and unfortunately in this area at this facility the membership base here is not strong enough to support an indoor aquatic center," Engle said.
Plenty of indoor pool swimmers are not happy about the announcements.
"It's a community loss," member Betsy Williams said. "I think all the people that have been here know the pool and love the pool."
Williams, who prefers to swim indoors out of the sun, says she's been swimming laps and taking aquatic classes at the Pennington branch for years.
"I joined the Y at this branch not because it's the closest to me or because my friends were here but for this pool and if this pool's not here, I won't be here," she said.
Since December 2015, the YMCA Pennington branch reports that its membership revenue is down about $900,000. The indoor aquatic center at Pennington costs about $250,000. The decision to close the two indoor pools has not been easy, but Engle says it's been evaluated and thought over for the past year.
"Primarily, that's members just not coming back," said Engle. "About 40 percent of this Y's membership comes from Denham Springs and as we know Denham Springs was hit very hard by the flood. Our feeling is that a number of those families are either not in a position to rejoin or have moved on or have relocated in some way."
The C.B. Pennington Jr. YMCA will continue to offer its youth-serving aquatic programs in the indoor pool at limited hours of operation. Engle hinted even that might not last.
"We're going to do that for as long as we can. A lot of this is strictly around reducing operation cost," he said.
With the pool closures, operation costs will be lower moving forward. The hope is that the remaining facilities will remain open. A recently completed year-long study of all its facilities which includes the existing structures and where the next Y will go.
Williams thinks more thought should go into the existing structures.
"I want the community to come together and see if we can't figure out a way for this pool to stay open," she said.