City is left to seek other operators, of pool especially
LYNDEN — In an online blog post and letter sent to members late last week, the Whatcom Family YMCA announced it will not be reopening the Lynden center.
The facility at 100 Drayton St. is owned by the City of Lynden, with financial contribution by the Lynden Regional Parks and Recreation District. The Whatcom YMCA has operated programs at the facility, which contains the only publicly run swimming pool in the north county.
This was the statement: “For 40 years, the Lynden YMCA has taught children to swim, developed youth sports skills and teamwork, improved the health and well-being of the community, and built a place of acceptance and fellowship. Though the YMCA remains committed to healthy living, youth development and social responsibility throughout Whatcom County during these unprecedented times and beyond, the Y has determined it is not financially viable or prudent to reopen the Lynden location for the foreseeable future. Over the past few years, due to the rising costs of operating the pool and building, this facility has run at a deficit. Unfortunately, the economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic has made these losses insurmountable, at least until the pandemic has passed.”
Two months ago, Whatcom Family said its revenue deficit across the organization was about $2.5 million.
“It is with profound sadness we announce that we are not able to reopen the Lynden YMCA at this time,” said Bill Ziels, CEO of Whatcom Family YMCA. “We respect the City of Lynden’s desire to reopen the site and understand they may explore leasing the building to other operators. We sincerely hope a solution is found that will enable the facility to reopen and serve the community.”
Mayor Scott Korthuis confirmed at Monday’s City Council meeting that he is looking into finding someone else to at least operate the pool — that is, when the facility is able to reopen somewhat close to normal under the state’s phased recovery from COVID.
“The YMCA is front on my list to solve right now,” Korthuis said.
And the building should start being called the Lynden Recreation Center, he added.
City Administrator Mike Martin has already written a draft Request for Information from possible new vendors who could operate the facility, and the request may go public next week.
Technically, the Whatcom YMCA’s lease on the 23,767-square-foot facility goes through Dec. 31.
The Y and the city shared a $204,354 major upgrade of the pool last year. Repairs included replacing plaster and tile, resurfacing the pool and repairing drains in the women’s locker room. In 2018 the city retrofitted the pool with new LED lighting.
The city is trying to protect that investment, Korthuis has said.
The community pool is used as the home base for practice and meets of the Lynden High School girls and boys swim teams.
While it will not be able to provide a central location in Lynden now, Whatcom YMCA says it will explore ways to offer programs and services when COVID restrictions are fully lifted.
“We greatly appreciate the help and support we have received from the City of Lynden, and we value our long-term relationship,” Ziels said.
The pool began as an outdoor one around 1960 and was enclosed and joined by racquetball courts, fitness rooms, and a gymnasium in one building in 1979-80.
The leased space of the Ferndale YMCA has also been closed and will not reopen in the COVID pandemic.