NORWALK, Conn. – The decision to close the Norwalk YMCA came after years of “running on negative income” and the realization that the organization’s financial situation would not improve, officials said.
For at least the past 15 years, the Norwalk Y had run up annual deficits of as much as 10 percent of its yearly operating budget of just more than $3 million, according to Carl Cooke, chairman of the Y’s board of directors.
“Fundraising and contributed income was making up a lot of the difference, but not all of it, and that funding has dropped dramatically over the years,” Cooke said. The facility had to borrow against the equity of the property to stay afloat, he said.
The facility has about 3,000 members who will have to find other options for swimming, fitness and other programs when it closes Dec. 31. Additionally, with the closing of the facility and downsizing to focus on after-school child care programs, nearly a dozen full-time employees and nearly 50 part-time workers will lose their jobs.
Maintaining the 90-year-old building became too costly, as did competing with the fitness clubs that have sprung up over the years, particularly as membership declined.
Area YMCAs will honor transferred memberships, Cooke said, and month-to-month memberships will be honored at current rates for 90 days. After that, members would have to begin paying the dues of the new facility.
“The Y was more than just a company or a business, it was a provider of services to the community, so it’s sad that things had come to this,” said Cooke, who has been going to the Norwalk Y for more than 30 years.
Norwalk Hospital is planning to buy the 370 West Ave. property. Cooke said he could not disclose the purchase price because the sale has not been completed but said it was in the seven-figure range.
Although the organization is closing the doors to its facility, the Y will continue to operate in a different, smaller capacity. And he is hopeful that it can be a resource for new programs.
“The Norwalk Y will continue, just in a way that people are not used to,” Cooke said. “I’m optimistic that there will still be new opportunities in the future.”