YMCA open to selling entire downtown Des Moines facility, CEO says
The YMCA of Greater Des Moines is now open to a future without a presence in the massive downtown facility it has occupied since 2015.
Why it matters: The Y is among the largest fitness centers in the metro, and the nonprofit aims to provide residents more affordable options for exercise, child care and youth activities.
What's happening: Leisha Barcus, the organization's CEO, told Polk County supervisors this week that her board is open to a complete sale of its Wellmark property at 501 Grand Ave. That's a change in tune from the three previous years that the property has been on the market.
- The Y prefers to maintain a presence at the site but the board is keeping its options open, Barcus told Axios Wednesday.
- The announcement came as supervisors approved a $6.5 million bridge loan this week to help the Y secure a sale or development agreement of the site.
The intrigue: The Y is also working to sell its South Suburban location, which has been leased to Genesis Health Clubs since October of 2020.
- Broadlawns Medical Center is in exploratory discussions to purchase the property, spokesperson Katie Wengert told Axios Wednesday.
State of play: Pandemic-related shutdowns have exacerbated the Y’s financial challenges, leading to the loss of 6,000 members across its six DSM-area branches and more than $6 million in revenue loss, as of last year.
- The Y announced a lease-back recovery plan for its downtown, Waukee and West Des Moines sites in January 2021 to help shed debt.
- Earlier this year, a developer terminated an agreement to turn half of the downtown facility's 146,000 square feet of fitness space into affordable housing.
What they're saying: The Y is in its best financial position in years, partly due to federal and state pandemic assistance, Barcus told county supervisors this week.
- Membership is back to 70% of what it was before the pandemic, she said.
Meanwhile, Matt McCoy, the only Polk County supervisor to vote no on the bridge loan, told Axios that he believes the Y should explore reorganization under bankruptcy.
- Supervisor Tom Hockensmith, in response to McCoy during Tuesday's meeting, said bankruptcy would cause further economic distress.
The bottom line: The Y is trying to evolve and improve the organization's long-term financial health.
- The county's action this week was an "incredibly important" step, Barcus said.
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