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Poinciana YMCA to pull programs after years of running on a loss

Posted on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm

By Tiffanie Reynolds

Staff Writer

 The West Central Florida YMCA will end its programs at the Poinciana YMCA on June 6, after working with the community for eight years.

The decision for the West Central Florida YMCA to leave the Poinciana location began in December 2013, when Kirk Eich became the president/CEO of the branch. While evaluating each of the branch’s YMCA locations, he noticed that Poinciana needed additional financial resources to keep the facility in good condition for the community.

Eich sent a proposal to the Association of Poinciana Villages (APV) that same month, including suggested solutions such as the APV assist the YMCA branch in hiring a program director from Poinciana, subsidize scholarships given to students for YMCA’s after school program and cut membership fees from $31 to $15. But, the need for resources, along with slow communication on the issue, led Eich to decide to pull their YMCA branch out of Poinciana entirely, he said.

“It really is in our best interest to allow the APV the ability to figure out what they want to do. I think in the long run, this is going to be good for the community. It’s going to force them to figure out at what level they want to provide recreation and leisure services. Who’s going to offer it, who’s going to manage it, what’s their budget,” said Eich.

Since the branch has leased the Poinciana community building in 2006, it has lost $100,000 every year, Eich said. That was attributed to the small amount of memberships, plus the large amount of scholarships given out to residents to have access to YMCA facilities. The West Central Florida YMCA branch gave $40,000 worth of scholarships every year to students who wanted to participate in their after school program, but whose parents couldn’t afford the cost.

Eich and the West Central Florida YMCA board weren’t the only ones trying to keep the facility running. Members of the Poinciana YMCA advisory board received donations from a couple of local nonprofit groups to help cover the facility’s yearly costs, along with fundraisers to also support the costs for the facility. But the board could never raise enough to help keep the facility in the area.

“They didn’t want to pull out, because the YMCA motto is be there for the community and all. It’s just that the community wasn’t supporting them, and they’ve just been losing money. When we tried as a board to do fundraisers, we basically couldn’t raise enough money to help,” said Jeffery Goldmacher, member of the Poinciana YMCA advisory board.

With the West Central Florida YMCA pulling out, Eich proposed that the APV board should work with Lake Wales YMCA, which is independent of West Central Florida and Central Florida YMCA. So, Lake Wales YMCA and APV are currently in negotiations regarding the proposal. Mark Maldonado, APV manager and employee of FirstService Residential, a property management company, said he was positive about the negotiations, but that the board is still looking over the proposal.

“If it’s the YMCA or not, we will always provide the services to the community. We are not going to allow that facility to close, and we are ready to look to different options in order to maintain the services to our community,” said Maldonado.

FirstService Residential began managing the building that YMCA leased as well as 13 acres of land around it 15 months ago. With the Lake Wales YMCA negotiations, Maldonado also announced that the APV plans to  spend $4.4 million to renovate the two existing community center buildings as well as construct a new building for a recreational pool. It will add 12,000 square feet to the existing community center, adding a new basketball court and tennis facility, enhancing services for the fitness areas and renovating the existing basketball court. The recreational pool facility will be in front of the current community building on Marigold Avenue. The APV board is currently in the blueprint stage of this project, obtaining the right permits, analyzing and surveying the land.

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