YMCA forum set Wednesday night in Vernon Hills
One Northern Lake YMCA member warned that the announcement by the Lake County Family YMCA that it plans to close Oct. 31 means that members are already looking for other places to exercise. “We’ll lose them,” the woman said. “And they won’t come back.”
Fitness centers, including Waukegan Park District’s Field House at Hinkston Park and the Rec Plex in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., are offering deals and new pricing structures to Y members.
The new CrossFitNorthpoint gym, off Route 43 in Waukegan, is offering a free fitness evaluation and class in an attempt to lure new customers. And Waukegan Township Park Place, 414 S. Lewis Ave., and the Family First Support Center, 202 S. Genesee St., Waukegan, are offering their free, but more modest, workout facilities as alternatives.
Y members may also transfer at no cost, according to the Lake County Family YMCA, to facilities in Lake Zurich, Northbrook, Kenosha and Lindenhurst.
Updated: December 9, 2012 1:15AM
Meetings among city and YMCA officials — and Y members — continue in the wake of the Lake County Family YMCA’s announcement that it plans to close both the Vernon Hills and Waukegan Y branches Oct. 31.
A “Help Save the Y” Community Forum will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, at the Central Lake YMCA in Vernon Hills, 700 Lakeview Parkway. A similar forum was held Friday at Waukegan Township’s Park Place.
Y officials say the nonprofit is broke, that each day it remains in operation adds to a nearly $8 million mountain of accumulated debt and interest.
Y spokesman Anne O’Connell said the Vernon Hills forum has been scheduled “in light of the overwhelming support that’s been shown for Lake County Family YMCA and the programs it provides.” Like the Waukegan forum, the meeting in Vernon Hills will feature remarks from Lake County Family YMCA interim CEO Hal Katz and Finance Director Jim Malecha, “about the possibilities of keeping the Ys in Vernon Hills and Waukegan open.”
The Vernon Hills Village Board Committee of the Whole and the village’s park district Board of Commissioners met to discuss the issue last week and again, with Y officials, on Tuesday.
“We’re still in the learning stages,” said Village Manager Mike Allison. “We’re doing some due diligence and reviewing options with the Y or without the Y — things like how much money do they need to stay open, and what about childcare.”
The two facilities have a combined membership of nearly 2,300, representing about 7,000 people.
Memberships at both Ys peaked at 5,000 in 2006, according to Daron Terfehn, director of the Northern Lake YMCA, who said the decline in membership amounted to a loss of $450,000 per year, about what it costs annually to operate one facility.
Waukegan Mayor Robert Sabonjian has discussed the matter with Vernon Hills Mayor Roger Byrne, Allison said. Last week, Sabonjian urged Waukegan Y members, one who asked about the possibility of splitting off and operating individually, to commit to a joint effort.
“It can’t just be Waukegan-centric,” agreed CEO Katz. “The Ys are linked by debt and management. We’re going to have to be successful together.”
The Lake County Family YMCA is exploring a possible bankruptcy, according to Malecha, who said the Y is under pressure because bonds attached to its debt “are being called by our bank.”
Members in Waukegan, including many elderly and disabled who rely on the Y’s affordable indoor pool for exercise and therapy, used the Friday forum to vent their frustration over what seemed an abrupt decision to close.
“It’s hard not to get emotional or upset and a little bit angry,” said member Ted Haugh, a daily swimmer and architect who designed the Waukegan Y. “When I heard the Y may close, it cut me to the core.”
Closure is also bad news for the Y’s 132 employees, including 34 full-timers and for hundreds of families who used the Y for before- and after-school childcare.
The Central Lake Y in Vernon Hills was constructed in 2001. In Waukegan, the Y has been a presence for 100 years. The Y last week launched a “capital” campaign, and placed donation boxes in each facility, in an attempt to raise a minimum of $5 million by Oct. 31
“There’s a possibility, going forward, that the Ys may stay open awhile longer depending on how the immediate fund-raising goes,” Allison said.