Residents Fighting to Save Local YMCA
George Scobus, executive director of the Valley of the Sun YMCA resigned after an angry crowed of about 200 showed up to confront YMCA officials about the closing of the South Mountain branch of the Y.
His resignation letter was a trip down memory lane of his years at the Y and thanks to volunteers, but no specific reason for leaving.
Meanwhile, Jim Diaz, vice president of marketing for the parent organization showed up at the meeting, held on January 27 at the branch on Olympic Drive, read a prepared statement, amid speculation of the parent company is unloading less profitable branches to meet a $4 million note immediately and another down the road. Diaz refused to answer any questions from the crowd before leaving the meeting.
Diaz also refused questions in an earlier interview about the outstanding notes, but he did say it should be no surprise to anyone that the South Mountain branch was for sale.
“We think we are sharing with everyone here, but the organization needs to look at the big scheme of things,” he said.
He said the South Mountain YMCA has been impacted by the $80 million Kroc Center administered by the Salvation Army, the new LA Fitness and a decrease of the Hispanic population since SB1070.
He said the membership of the branch is down 70 percent in then past three years.
“That impacted us dramatically and competition was the biggest piece. Before that we were the only game in town. Now that is not the case,” he said.
Diaz said the YMCA has never been defined by a building, but by the programs offered to the community. The building was constructed for 2,500 families, but now is being used by 600.
“We are looking at alternatives to what to do with that space,” he said. “No final deal has been done, but we are in active conversations with a couple of players.”
One of the players is looking for a building to use as an alternative school for troubled children, he said.
“I think the residents are angry because they might feel they were not consulted, but I have been in meetings with (locals) to talk about our concerns,” he said. “There are going to be plans after tonight’s meeting, we are looking to have community meetings coming up,” Diaz said.
Ingrid Loman, who is spearheading the effort to save their South Mountain Branch of the YMCA, said she is not surprised by the resignation, but that was not her aim.
“I was not trying to have someone resign from their job, I am trying to save our Y,” she said.
Lowman said a representative from the parent organization met with her recently and confirmed the notes were an issue.
And she said that recently the South Mountain YMCA childcare center was sold without anyone being notified a sale was pending.
“The South Mountain Village was unaware of the sale of our childcare center at 16th and Southern,” said George Young one of the local board members. “Nobody knew, not even the board of the South Mountain Y.”
Lowman said dealing with the Valley of the Sun YMCA is “an ongoing battle,” with everything from building fields, lighting fields and the renting of their buildings to organizations that pay low rent.
Young said he came to the recent meeting to get some answers.
One of the answers Young desired was if the local board still existed since there has not been a board meeting since July.
“We are not having the YMCA leave South Mountain,” Diaz said. “We still want childcare, Silver Sneakers and we want to retain the fields for the kid sports and whoever we are talking to we still want to have access to the gym,” he said.
He said he Y hopes also to partner with surrounding schools for access.
Lowman and Young will be part of a smaller contingent to meet with Diaz and the Valley of the Sun YMCA board to discuss the future of the local Y.
“Then we will have larger town hall meetings,” Young said.