Editor's Note: The following guest column was provided by David Wright, Chief Volunteer Office (Board President) for the YMCA of Clay County.
My name is David Wright and I am the Chief Volunteer Officer (Board President) for the YMCA of Clay County.
I would also like to state that I am an avid swimmer.
When I joined the board a little over three years ago, one of the first questions I asked was, "where is the pool?"
I have to admit, I am much better educated today as to why there is no pool than I was three years ago.
I would love to have a pool at the YMCA of Clay County and would be the first to vote in favor of it. Additionally, I want to say there is no one on the YMCA of Clay County board "blocking" a pool. Every board member would gladly vote in favor of a pool if we could find a way to fund one without endangering the financial health of the YMCA of Clay County as we know it now.
You see, our primary responsibility as board members is for the financial health and ongoing longevity of the YMCA of Clay County and, unfortunately, a pool is by far always the largest financial drain on any YMCA facility.
It is easy for those who have no stake in an organization to stand on the sidelines and criticize those who do. I, too, also talk to people "all the time," who claim if we had a pool, they would "be the first to join."
Unfortunately, the real truth of the matter is the number of those people is quite small compared to those who already currently have a membership with our local YMCA, a membership consisting of individuals and families who may also want a pool, but choose to belong and contribute to the success of the YMCA of Clay County regardless.
A study conducted by the National YMCA Organization shows the YMCA of Clay County enjoys membership numbers well above the national average. Adding any additional facilities, be it a pool, gym, racquetball courts, etc., would not make a significant enough change in our membership enrollment to offset the costs associated with any of those costly additions.
The result would be a need to significantly increase membership dues. Those same studies show that a significant increase in membership dues would have just the opposite effect on membership, causing the numbers we enjoy to fall.
A pool is the most expensive thing a YMCA can have in its facility to operate. Our membership enjoys a state-of-the-art facility at one of the lowest membership rates in the state of Indiana. Our facility is clean and well maintained. We are able to meet our ongoing maintenance needs and keep our facility in better than average condition. A number of other local YMCAs have been mentioned and it has been noted they have pools. All of those facilities mentioned are currently struggling to keep their heads above water financially.
The YMCA is a wonderfully connected organization throughout the country and we are in constant contact with our neighboring Y's and know their struggles and successes quite well. When asked about their financial struggles, they all respond that if they could get rid of their pool, they would be OK. We will not put ourselves in that position just because someone wants a pool. It would be foolish and, more importantly, a violation of our responsibilities as a board, to push through the installation of a pool just because "everybody" wants one.
There has been mention of collaboration between the YMCA and the Clay Community School District or St. Vincent Clay Hospital. Again, we have looked into these possibilities and, unfortunately, they have not resulted in a long-term commitment from either entity.
The last thing we will do is build a pool based on uncertain collaborations that may leave us holding the entire bill for the ongoing expense ourselves. Of significance, recently in the news, it was reported the Paris, Ill., YMCA was conducting a fundraising campaign to raise $75,000 in order to keep their pool open. What was not reported was this $75,000 was needed just to keep it open this year. More funds would need to be raised in 2010.
Estimates for a limited pool consisting of three lanes, a small full depth area, and a zero depth entry beach type play area put the initial construction costs at over $2.1 million.
The ongoing maintenance costs alone would result in a first-year estimated increase in membership rates as follows: The youth monthly rate would go from $5 to $27.50 (an increase of approximately 550 percent); the young adult monthly rate would go from $12 to $27.50 (an increase of approximately 230 percent); the family monthly rate would go from $29 to $82.50 (an increase of approximately 285 percent); and a senior monthly rate would go from $11 to $41 (an increase of approximately 373 percent).
All other monthly rates would adjust accordingly.
As mentioned earlier, these increases would result in a significant loss of members. Far more than would be gained by adding a pool. The numbers are based on our current membership numbers so as we lost members, we would have to increase the rate even more to recoup the added expense of annually maintaining a pool.
As you can see, it becomes a vicious circle that feeds on itself and ultimately results in the closure of the facility (an example of this is the failure and eventual closure of the Terre Haute YMCA facility at 6th and Walnut streets).
Our community currently has a beautiful public pool at Forest Park for all to use. During those times of the year when an outdoor pool is not an option, our community is fortunate enough to have the opportunity to utilize the private pool at Fun Time Scuba for a nominal fee.
If you are adamant about swimming, I suggest you take advantage of the resources available to you now in the community.
In closing, our YMCA is too nice of an asset in our community to lose.