YMCA to close Victor, Monroe Ave. branches due to financial impact of COVID-19

Two branches of the YMCA of Greater Rochester will close permanently due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (WHAM photo)

(WHAM) - Two branches of the YMCA of Greater Rochester will close permanently partly due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Monroe Ave. and Victor branches will be shut down, according to CEO George Romell, who made the announcement Friday.

"It's had a massive, massive impact on our organization," Romell said.

It costs $872 per member to subsidize the Monroe Avenue branch, more than twice the cost of any other branch. Romell said 50 percent of the Monroe Avenue members do not come to that branch; they go elsewhere. Fewer than 100 people were coming through the doors each day, which is "unsustainable," according to Romell.

The Monroe Ave. YMCA has been a fixture in the Monroe Avenue neighborhood for nearly a century.

The YMCA says other branches saw more traffic before the state shut down gyms due to COVID-19.

The Monroe Avenue building will now be repurposed for use by The Center for Youth, a non-profit organization that serves at-risk youth in Rochester and the surrounding area. Romell cited a longstanding partnership with the organization, including Project SafePlace.

The Center for Youth executive director Elaine Spaull says the space will be put to good use.

“Our shelters will not close, but our offices have really had to downgrade a number of people. Now, we have room to spread and grow and we can really bring people back,” said Spaull.

"We need to have community solutions because as resources go away and reality hits as to what the true impact of this pandemic is going to be," Romell said. "It's not a choice anymore. It has to be that we are going to work together as a not-for-profit community to find a way to continue to serve this community."

While the Monroe Ave. building is getting turned over to the nonprofit, the community is already feeling the loss.

Monroe Ave. YMCA member Jake Wojtowicz says the news leaves him with uncertainty.

“I think we felt as though if it did open, we’d feel safe there. Whereas, I’m not sure I’d want to go to a new gym and deal with that,” said Wojtowicz.

In Victor, the branch was also suffering from a lack of membership participation. YMCA leadership is looking to re-purpose to support schools.

"I assure you this is not just a city issue," Romell said. "This is a system-wide issue."

For Wojtowicz, the Monroe Ave. location was convenient. For he and his wife, Wojtowicz says the YMCA wasn’t just a place to exercise.

“We liked it because it was friendly and nice. We weren’t going there just because it was a gym. I don’t really know what we’ll do,” said Wojtowicz.

More than 2,000 YMCA employees have been furloughed since April 1. There are 17 branches of the YMCA of Greater Rochester.

The transfer of the building is expected to get completed by the end of September.

Officials say most of the full-time YMCA employees affected have already been transferred within the organization.