YMCA hopes new facilities spur a resurgence

EVERETT — The YMCA of Snohomish County is at a critical point in its 100-year history.

That’s the message of the organization’s leaders as they lay out their three-year development plan.

The YMCA expects to break ground on a new branch in Stanwood later this summer, and it’s shopping around for a new location for its central Everett facility.

Building new facilities is all in service of the YMCA’s greater goal of remaining relevant.

“For families and for seniors and for kids and teens, I think the Y is really the primary the place to look to for a welcoming environment,” said Scott Washburn, CEO and president of the local organization.

The YMCA has faced challenges recently with falling membership, especially at the Everett branch.

At its peak at the end of 2008, the Everett branch had 5,300 members. That has fallen to 3,600 members this year.

The YMCA attributes that partly to the recession, which forced people to cut back on their spending, including YMCA memberships.

The YMCA also faces some competition from the burgeoning private gym industry, where baseline membership costs are often in the range of $20-$30 per month.

Youth membership at the YMCA costs $24 per month, while young adults pay $39 and adults $59 per month. But the YMCA offers a much wider variety of services than a standalone gym, Washburn said.

Instead, the biggest potential boon for membership is upgrading or replacing the Everett facility.

“Simply replacing this facility with a new modern accessible facility, we’d increase our membership two or three times our current membership,” Washburn said.

The old Everett Y has seen better days. The oldest part of the facility is nearly 100 years old, with additions built in the 1960s and 1980s.

But its 100,000 square feet of space don’t get utilized well. There isn’t an elevator, so the upper stories are inaccessible to people with disabilities. Most of the rooms that once were residences in the 1920s-era building are now used as storage space.

There are eight racquetball courts, for example, a lot for a sport that peaked in the 1980s, Washburn said. Several have been converted to other uses, such as a cycling studio, a squash court and a walleyball court.

“Everett is currently our smallest membership base in our largest facility,” Washburn said.

Compared with Everett’s membership of 3,600, the Mill Creek YMCA has 7,800 members, Mukilteo has 6,700, Marysville has 6,500 and Monroe has 5,600.

Paid memberships are the YMCA’s largest source of revenue. Other money comes in from child care services the club runs at local schools, adult classes and other fee-based programs.

Washburn said that when the Stanwood-Camano YMCA is built, he expects it will have a large membership because it will serve all of north Snohomish County.

So far, the YMCA has raised $8.4 million for the Stanwood-Camano branch, mostly from major donors that were solicited directly.

The organization is now reaching out to a wider net of corporate and philanthropic donors to get up to $12 million. The balance of the $18 million would be picked up by a combination of the YMCA’s own resources and low-interest borrowing, Washburn said.

Replacing the Everett facility is estimated to cost between $22 million and $25 million, he said.

The YMCA is considering three options for the Everett branch. The first is to replace the building at its existing location. The others include buying another building: the Everett School District building at 4730 Colby Ave., which would be demolished and rebuilt, or the Everett Post Office building at 3102 Hoyt.*

Washburn said the YMCA would decide on a new location in six to nine months.

Scott Forslund, the chairman of the YMCA and self-styled “chief volunteer officer,” said the challenge in the coming capital campaigns for Everett and Stanwood-Camano is also to “not shoot too low,” he said.

“This is a 100-year inflection point in the Y’s history,” said Forslund, who is also the executive director of the Providence Institute for a Healthier Community.

“Long after we’re gone there will be a facility and community that will benefit, or experience gaps, as a result of the decisions we’ve made,” he said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Correction, Feb. 2, 2015: An earlier version of this story misstated the YMCA’s options for the Everett branch.

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