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Closed since March, Lincoln's Downtown YMCA won't reopen

Closed since March, Lincoln's Downtown YMCA won't reopen

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The YMCA of Lincoln is closing its 11th and P Streets location, leaving it without a downtown presence for the first time in nearly 150 years.

The branch was closed in mid-March because of the coronavirus. The YMCA announced Thursday it has decided to not reopen.

YMCA President and CEO Barb Bettin called it a financial decision.

The nonprofit is focused on stabilizing its overall financial footing, which has been strained by the pandemic. The downtown branch’s rising maintenance and capital expenses have long been costly.

The future of the Downtown Y has been something the nonprofit has discussed since she became CEO in 2002, Bettin said.

“We try to maintain, and as we try to maintain, the facility continues to age,” she said. “So here we are at a crossroads.”

The pandemic also has presented challenges for YMCA locations in Omaha, said John Monson, chief advancement officer for the YMCA of Greater Omaha. But all 10 branches in the Omaha metro area are up and running.

Since reopening to the public, the branches have resumed youth sports. They also have provided child care services to front-line health care workers and implemented the Fresh Produce Project to address food insecurity.

Membership numbers have dipped since the beginning of the pandemic, Monson said, but gymgoers have been returning to local branches.

Community members and businesses have supported YMCA efforts with donations and grants to allow for continued services and programming.

“The community has supported the Y with donations, grants and program participation,” Monson said, “which has helped to maintain a strong and steady status for the branches remaining open across Omaha.”

The downtown Lincoln Y was the oldest of the Y’s five Lincoln branches, occupying three floors of the 94-year-old Georgian Place apartment building, including a pool, since 1971.

But it hasn’t been the busiest branch. Before the pandemic, its front desk would record an average of 11,000 membership card scans a month, Bettin said, though that number includes multiple visits by individual members.

By comparison, the Cooper and Copple Family branches logged up to 35,000 scans a month.

Before the Downtown Y closed March 17, it had about 70 staffers — including fitness instructors, personal trainers and front-desk workers — with three of those full-time employees.

About a third of that staff has since moved to the four remaining locations, Bettin said. And about 40% of Downtown Y members are now working out at the other branches.

The YMCA plans to sell the space it owns inside Georgian Place.

Bettin left open the possibility of an eventual return to downtown, though the nonprofit doesn’t yet have any formal or final plans.

“We don’t know if that’s a program, whether it’s a small building or a large building,” she said. “Everyone is committed to looking at that, but at this point we wanted to make this decision.”

World-Herald staff writer Kelsey Stewart contributed to this report.

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