Citing sluggish membership growth that made it financially unsustainable, the Lancaster Family YMCA has sold its recreation center in New Holland even as it continues to look for a smaller facility in the area.
The 55,000-square-foot center at 123 N. Shirk Road was sold Oct. 23 for $1.8 million to First Eastern Development Co., a commercial real estate investment firm that owns the 121,000-square-foot warehouse adjoining the YMCA building.
“This was not an easy decision for the Board, but after evaluating all options we came to the tough decision that it was not possible to maintain a facility of this size and scope and it would be necessary to sell the building,” Bill Hauber, Lancaster Family YMCA board chairman, said in a statement announcing the sale.
John Newton of First Eastern Development Co. said third party fulfillment company EchoData will expand into the building when the YMCA moves out. Under terms of a lease with First Eastern Development Co., YMCA will continue to operate the facility and keep it open for members through Dec. 23.
“This is a very unfortunate situation,” Deborah Day, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Brandywine and Lancaster Family YMCA, said. “It was so, so difficult — and its still very painful for me, to tell you the truth — because we really want to have a presence and serve that community.”
A community center
While the Y hopes to open a smaller recreation center in the area, the closure of the one on Shirk Road ends a chapter that began 20 years ago when community members rallied around the idea of a recreation center for New Holland.
In 2005, the New Holland Recreation Center began a capital campaign that raised $8.4 million by the time the center opened in a former Good Furniture warehouse in 2009.
The private recreation center boasted an indoor pool with four lap lanes as well as water slide and fountains. There was also an 8,000-square-foot fitness center with treadmills, elliptical machines, free weights and circuit machines.
After operating independently for several years, the New Holland Recreation Center ran into financial trouble, prompting a takeover six years ago by the Lancaster Family YMCA, which has locations in Lancaster city and Lampeter and operates Camp Shand in Cornwall.
New owner, same problems
But the Lancaster Family YMCA ran into its own financial troubles and in September told members that it was considering a sale of the center which was also in need of some potentially costly repairs, including to the pool which was closed in August.
“There are people who are definitely benefiting from the Y and we want to serve them. that’s why we stayed as long as we did,” Day said.
Proceeds from the sale will go towards paying down existing debt on the building, an amount Day said will nearly be covered.
When the New Holland YMCA closes, Day said members can visit other YMCA locations or get refunds, if necessary. The one full-time employee in New Holland is getting a job at another location, while Day said they are working to find positions for the 20 to 25 part-time employees.
Day stressed that the the YMCA is not abandoning the New Holland area and is actively looking to for a 15,000-to-20,000-square foot space that wouldn’t have a pool but could host a wellness center, child care programs and group exercise classes.
“If anybody has any ideas or somebody has space for rent or lease, we hope folks will reach out,” she said.