Fitness program closing at Downtown YMCA; youth career center remains openBy MEGAN PHILLIPS,
The Downtown YMCA, located off Fortification Street, is closing on December 1.
However, the building is not being sold, and the location will still be used for the I.S. Sanders and Community Youth Career Development Centers (CYCDC) Teen programs.
“Our goal in restructuring the Y is just that — to continue to have a Y in our community,” Janet Reihle, metropolitan YMCAs of Mississippi development director, said. “Our board of directors has had to make difficult decisions to address the financial challenges we have been facing for some time now.”
Last year, the corporate office invested $100,000 in the downtown location for renovations to keep members from the Deville location off I-55, which had recently closed, and increase new memberships at the Fortification location.
“The new functional fitness space and the classes we are able to offer are a great value. Still with that investment, our wellness memberships have continued to decline,” Reihle said.
To continue the Downtown location, Reihle said the facility would need $2.5 million to pay off the debt. The facility loses $200,000 a year on average, and approximately 1,000 additional members would be needed to cover that loss as well as regular repair and maintenance costs of the aging building.
“The Downtown Y is the longest operating Y in metro Jackson,” Reihle said. “Completely submerged by the flood of 1979, the Y has continued to serve and is an important part of our history… The decision to discontinue the adult wellness programs on December 1, 2017, was extremely difficult, but they feel it is the right decision for our Y to make the most of our resources and best serve future generations.”
December is usually the time of year when gyms and the Y have low facility usage, which is why the corporate office chose the December 1 closing date.
“We feel this is the best time to be able to move equipment and start up classes at our other locations so that there is no lapse in service for our Downtown members.”
Reihle said many Ys across the nation are in the same position as the Downtown location, while others are thriving and building new facilities.
“It’s fairly even throughout the association,” she said. “We’re really happy that as a Y, we still feel like we’re furthering our mission. This location is not the only one evolving… The Y stays relevant by always evolving with needs of community. Downtown, there are fewer members but there are more requests for youth programming.”
The Flowood, Clinton and Reservoir locations have seen some fluctuation in membership as well, “although not at the same rate of decline as Downtown.”
The Reservoir Y is the metro Jackson’s smallest facility, but has been supporting the local association for 15 years, according to Reihl.
“The reason the Reservoir Y is so strong is because it is driven by an excellent child-care program, including an inclusive camp and after-school program for special needs kids… Our focus on youth development right now in Jackson is intentional — we know that we build a better Y by investing in families and keeping our mission-driven focus.”
The CYCDC Teen and I.S. Sanders will continue at the Downtown facility.
“Plans are being made for alternative sites outside the Y to continue our focus on youth development in Jackson. We are working on opportunities to provide more afterschool programming with public school officials and state agencies. We have been approached by four additional counties to create CYCDC Teen programs, which would expand our current reach to a total of 18 counties statewide,” Reihle said.
The CYCDC program is a grant-funded service through the Mississippi Department of Human Services and allows the Y to provide free support services such as job training, mentoring and life skills to youth ages 12 to 18.
“We are also working on providing SilverSneakers and senior classes to sites within the city of Jackson to allow us to continue to serve our senior population.”
SilverSneakers is a class and membership benefit senior adults receive through their insurance provider. It requires no extra cost, and the Y has a community of seniors who depend on the class for physical and social benefits.
Currently, the CYCDC Teen Program is held upstairs in the facility, but to cut utility costs and maintenance as well as provide more room, the youth group will be moved downstairs following the discontinuation of the adult wellness programs.
Reihle said the corporate office has not made a decision on how to proceed with the Downtown facility’s pool, which is only open during the summer months.
“We don’t have plans to utilize the pool as cost saving measure.”
The fulltime employees at the Downtown facility will be relocated to the other locations in Flowood, Clinton and at the reservoir. Parttime employees should be transferred as well.
“This is an opportunity to bring all our resources together. We have been understaffed at a lot of our facilities…”
All current Y members will still have access to the Clinton, Flowood and reservoir facilities.
Reihle said much of the functional fitness equipment as well as Pilates Reformers will be moved to the Flowood location
“We are happy to be able to offer even more class times so that Downtown members will still be able to attend classes with the instructors that they love. We are excited to bring those classes to our Flowood and reservoir members. The Clinton Y already has Pilates Reformer classes built into their membership.”
The Reservoir and Clinton facilities will also update their cardio equipment.
The corporate office is currently working with Jackson officials to hopefully provide senior classes and make equipment available at off-site locations.