Downtown YMCA still closed as organization struggles with membership losses

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Georgian Place

The downtown YMCA at 11th and P Streets has been closed for six months because of the coronavirus pandemic and the organization is not sure when it will reopen.

An email that went out this week to employees of the Downtown YMCA raised concerns that it might be closing permanently, but the head of the organization says that’s not the case.

The email to employees told them the number of people working downtown is still very limited because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the YMCA branch at 11th and P streets “will continue to remain closed.”

“Because we do not know when or if we will return to normal operations Downtown, we are ending your employment and our records will reflect your employment end date as September 16, 2020,” the email said.

Barb Bettin, president and CEO of the YMCA of Lincoln, said the email went only to furloughed employees who haven’t been called back to work and was really just a “best practice” for legal and human resources reasons.

But Bettin did say that there is no timetable for reopening the downtown location.

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“The facility remains temporarily closed, and the board is evaluating that decision month by month,” she said.

The YMCA’s other four Lincoln locations reopened in May after being closed for a little more than two months, and Bettin said the organization is at about 60% of its pre-pandemic membership numbers.

Numbers for youth sports also are down significantly, she said, with about 50%-75% of normal participation this fall.

“We really are trying to stabilize financially,” Bettin said, noting that the Y was not able to qualify for a Paycheck Protection Program loan because it has too many employees.

The Y’s Cooper, Copple, Fallbrook and Northeast locations offer a lot more classes and activities than the downtown location, which relies heavily on membership fees, Bettin said.

Because there are so few people downtown these days, it’s not financially feasible to have the YMCA there open.

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Todd Ogden, president and CEO of the Downtown Lincoln Association, said its most recent survey of downtown businesses showed that about 65% of their employees are still working at home. While some of those businesses plan to bring workers back in the next couple of months, others plan to wait until after the first of the year.

“Downtown, from an employee standpoint, is a lot quieter,” said Ogden, who is a member of the YMCA’s board of directors.

“It’s been tough for the Y,” he said. “I’m really hoping the downtown branch can open sooner rather than later.”

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Bettin said she doesn’t know when that will be, but there is no consideration being given to closing the location permanently.

Long-term plans could include looking at a different location or changing the services available, she said, but the Y has been in downtown Lincoln for 150 years and has no plans to leave.

“We are committed to continuing to serve the downtown area,” she said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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