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YMCA of Greater Rochester closing Monroe, Victor branches

Charles Molineaux
Updated: July 31, 2020 07:13 PM
Created: July 31, 2020 10:48 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Two YMCA branches, including its iconic 1923 Monroe Avenue Y will be closed as the non-profit deals with a coronavirus-induced financial crisis, leaders of the YMCA of Greater Rochester announced Friday.

"The people who work here always knew my name. They were really happy to see me come in,” sighed member Reggie Stephens who said he would be canceling his membership rather than travel to another gym.  

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Stephens said he had been waiting months for the Monroe Avenue facility to come out of lockdown.

"I continued my membership even though they weren't letting any people in, just so that when it opened up, I will be ready to come back,” he said. “But it doesn't look like they will be coming back."

"I know everybody identifies the YMCA with a building,” CEO George Rommel said. “It's not a building. It’s an organization with a mission.” 

YMCA leaders announced Friday morning that the historic building, their second oldest in the city, has been under consideration for closing for years because few members, even those who belong here, actually come here, maintenance has become ruinously expensive and, while Rochester Ys have long been subsidized by suburban ones, subsidizing this one costs an extra $875 per member, more than all the rest. 

And now, they said, coronavirus lockdowns have cut off three of their most important sources of revenue, memberships for health and wellness activities in YMCA centers, summer day camps and child care for schools, forcing their hand.

“What is most frustrating is that museums, malls, big box stores, are open. And we don’t see data that supports health and wellness activities causing a spike,” said Rommel. “When we say this is the new normal, we all hope that it's not. But we know it's not going to go away anytime soon. " 

Y leaders say developers offered big bucks for the building but instead they’re selling it, for one dollar, to the Center for Youth, which is outgrowing its building just across Interstate 490 from the Y.  

The Center’s Executive Director Elaine Spaull called the new space a severely needed opportunity for her non-profit which has been rapidly growing and feeling the pinch from coronavirus social distancing.

“We are trying to rotate, stagger, but there are some offices that have four or five staff in them and we can never really open,” she said.

As the center planned for the move she eagerly looked forward to more room.

"We will have a big open space downstairs for training,” she said. “We can do some of the things we've never been able to do here, even before the virus."

The facility’s iconic swimming pool will not be part of the deal. It will be filled in and turned into a multi-purpose space.

The YMCA Active Family Center in Victor will be closing down too, its future still hasn’t been worked out.


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