- Communication Builds Our Community

By Chevon T. Baccus APR
Executive Editor 

City Officials Express Support for YMCA Purchase

$545K a Bargain for Multimillion Dollar Complex


Last updated 8/1/2019 at 11:23am

water aerobics at Lake Wales YMCA

The City of Lake Wales may own a multimillion dollar recreation facility and swimming pool by the end of the year. At a workshop Tuesday, June 25 city commissioners expressed support for purchasing the Lake Wales Family YMCA, calling it a "win-win" partnership.

Revised facility use and operating agreements will be brought to the Y board and city commission for approval in about two months. If approved the city would commit an estimated $545,000 to pay off the mortgage and take possession of the 25,790-square-foot recreation facility and swimming pool on 9.45 acres of property. The YMCA of West Central Florida would lease the complex for $1 per year and continue managing key programs, including childcare and camps, aquatics, youth and adult sports and wellness.

Assistant City Manager James Slaton said a 2014 appraisal determined the complex was worth about $2.8 million, and a new appraisal will be done prior to purchase. The Y says the facility is worth roughly $4 million. Slaton said the facility is in "pretty good shape," but professionals will help determine renovation and maintenance costs and priorities. The Y is on a septic system, so the city will need to bear the cost of connecting to the city sewer system, he said. Parking lot repairs and other building upgrades will be needed, Slaton said.

"This is a good opportunity for the Y and a great opportunity for the city," said Kirk Eich, executive director and CEO of the YMCA of West Central Florida, which has been managing the Lake Wales Y in recent years.

City Manager Ken Fields agreed: "It's a win-win all the way."

The only attorney on the commission, Vice Mayor Robin Gibson said he prefers "plain English" to the "archaic" language in the proposed agreements, but he is satisfied that the city is getting a good deal and the Y will carry adequate insurance protection. Gibson said he also likes the fact that city residents will get a break on memberships, since they will be supporting the Y with their taxes.

Commissioners agreed city residents would benefit from half-price memberships, continued free use of the swimming pool 21 hours per week and access to fee-based classes at member rates. The city would subsidize the memberships with an estimated $84,000 to $125,000 per year, continue paying $36,000 per year for pool use and likely budget about $25,000 per year for new programs, such as a Learn to Swim program for kindergartners at four local elementary schools.

Fields said building a new multipurpose recreation facility would cost an estimated $4-6 million, plus the additional expense for staff and operations.

Commissioner Terrye Howell, who has been advocating for a community swimming pool for many years, said she hopes all Y staff will make all city residents feel welcome. She said that has not always been the case, but she believes recent concerns were resolved. How people are treated at the Y now will reflect on the City of Lake Wales, Howell said.

"I am very happy we are going to get a pool for our city finally," said Howell, who grew up in Lake Wales when there were few or no swim lesson opportunities, especially for minority children.

Eich said the Y is a "melting pot" and the organization offers scholarship programs to ensure those with lower incomes have opportunities to participate. Slaton noted the Y already is making facilities and ball fields available to community groups. "We like to say 'yes,'" Eich said.

Author Bio

Chevon T. Baccus APR, Contributing Writer

After working as a newspaper reporter and editor for eight years, Chevon moved on to a long career in public relations, marketing and business development. After 2 1/2 years as founding publisher of she's happy to still be an occasional contributor.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 8636511065


Reader Comments(1)

BBallRob1 writes:

I am so glad the City is expressing interest in upgrading recreational areas in Lake Wales. The YMCA Purchase and upgrading recreational facilities at Crystal Lake park are great ideas. Our youth and young families have to have things to do or they will go other places and not stay locally. Thanks for the wisdom!


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