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Sarasota Friday, Nov. 22, 2019 6 months ago

Sarasota YMCA signs another short-term lease, hopes to make purchase of land

The new lease runs through March 31, though leaders hope to make a purchase on the properties before then.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Two months in and the Sarasota YMCA is looking good, leaders say,

After the Sarasota Family YMCA, now called the Safe Children Coalition, announced it would close its two fitness branches in July, local groups sprung into action to help keep both the Frank G. Berlin Sr. Branch and the Evelyn Sadlier Jones Branch open.

Partners — including Dreamers Academy charter school, the Save Our Y organization and the investment firm Project Stoked — took over control of the fitness branches Sept. 17. 

The leaders started from scratch: rehiring employees, launching a new membership system and working to figure out a new lease. 

It was a busy first couple months, said Charlie Campbell, chairman of the transitional board of directors, but with community support, leaders got it done. 

However, the lease signed in September lasted until Nov. 17. Leaders were hoping to finalize a contract for the purchase of land for both properties before that day, but were unable to do so. 

So, the properties are on another short-term lease, this one with an end-date of March 31. Before then, Campbell said he hopes to reach an agreement with Safe Children Coalition for the purchase of the land. 

Although he could not say how much the agreement would cost, Campbell said it would basically cover the debt that Safe Children Coalition owes to the bank and the old YMCA Foundation. At a town hall meeting in July Interim CEO of then-Sarasota Family YMCA Steve Bourne said the YMCAs had a $2.4 million mortgage and about $4 million in debt payments. 

The YMCAs received their 501(c) status Tuesday, which allows the organization to run tax-exempt. It also helps the Ys meet part of the requirements necessary for the sale of the properties.

“We’re currently paying taxes on just about everything that comes in and we want to get away from that quickly,” Campbell said. 

Membership numbers are growing. The near-term goal is 5,000 members and between both branches, there are 4,554 members, a number Campbell said he's is happy to see. 

“We have been so very appreciative of the members that stayed with us initially, but we’re starting to see a lot of people come back to us that we missed,” Campbell said. “They’re coming back largely because they missed the kind of family and community feeling that we have here.” 

The gym has reinstated programs for youth as well as weekend dances, which have a healthy number of participants. 

Leaders are working to bring new fitness equipment to both locations and hope to have that installed by late February or early March 2020. Bringing back the Silver Sneakers program, a fitness program included with many Medicare plans, is also in the works. 

A state of the Y meeting is planned in December for employees, staff and members of the public who wish to attend. Leaders plan to meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Potter Park branch on Dec. 3 and the Berlin branch on Dec. 4. 

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