One Florida Y Announces It Is Closing, Another Plans to Expand

Residents of the southern Florida city of Bonita Springs are planning to protest the imminent closure of the Bonita YMCA at a city council meeting this week. YMCA of the Palms, which manages the branch, announced earlier this month that it would be closing the facility due to financial hardship.

Members of the Bonita Y want a chance to air their concerns and to try to find a way for the center, which opened in 2005, to continue operating, according to reports in several local media outlets. Many of the center’s supporters say they made financial donations towards its $7.2 million construction cost.

In a statement, Brandon Dowdy, president and CEO of YMCA of the Palms, said the organization already has researched possible solutions to keep the center open.

“Our volunteer and staff leadership have spent the last year exploring options to ensure the YMCA’s long-term success and to best match our organization’s unique capabilities with the community’s needs,” he said. “Unfortunately, we cannot continue to subsidize operating losses, and we have made the difficult decision to suspend operations.”

The statement also said that the YMCA of the USA is working with community leaders to identify ways in which the Y can continue to offer services in Bonita Springs.

In addition to fitness facilities, the center also offers child care and Weight Watchers and Silver Sneakers programs and serves as a hurricane shelter.

YMCA of the Palms executives have not said what avenues are being considered, but about 40 miles up the Florida coast in Fort Myers, the Lee County Y, which also was operating at a loss recently, has found a way to continue—and even expand—its services to the community.

The Lee County Y earlier this month announced it had merged with the South County YMCA, one county away, in an effort to reduce overhead and find financial stability. Lee County Y currently is comprised of the Paul Bush Branch in Fort Myers and another branch in Naples; South County Y operates facilities in Venice and Englewood.

Under the new partnership, and with the help of another local nonprofit organization, the Lee County Y now is planning to expand. The Y last week confirmed that it will be opening a new center in Cape Coral this August. The branch will be located in a former Shriners Club building that the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club is buying with the intention of having the YMCA operate the new center’s programming.

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