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Article updated: 10/30/2012 1:19 PM

Vernon Hills Park District reaches tentative deal to buy YMCA

By Mick Zawislak

Members of the Central Lake YMCA in Vernon Hills received an early Halloween treat Monday with news of a deal that will keep the doors open with no interruption or change in services, programs or fees.

While the name will stay the same for the next several months, the Vernon Hills Park District eventually will assume ownership and operation of the facility at 700 Lakeview Parkway, with a sale to be completed no later than Jan. 1 under a tentative pact.

"We're getting a lot of calls today, 'Should I stay? Should I go?' We couldn't tell them until now," park board President David Doerhoefer said Monday evening. "That facility will be open. There will be no change in services or fee structure."

After the real estate closing, the park district will continue to provide fitness memberships, aquatic programs, day and after school care at current fees for the immediate future. Central Lake YMCA in Vernon Hills reported having 3,102 members as of Aug. 31.

The Lake County Family YMCA announced in late September that facilities it operates in Vernon Hills and Waukegan would close Oct. 31 due to continuing financial difficulties.

But that will be avoided in Vernon Hills with an "agreement in principle" with the YMCA, according to the park district. The pact represents a partnership in which the village will lend the park district the money to buy the 30,000-square-foot building on 9 acres.

The amount of the pending purchase was not immediately disclosed, though it is more than the $1.4 million initially offered and rejected last week by the YMCA.

The Vernon Hills village board has scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Wednesday to consider the purchase and to direct Village Manager Mike Allison to negotiate the deal as well a separate agreement with the park district regarding details of the financing.

In a letter last Thursday to the park district, Hal Katz, interim CEO, said $1.4 million was "far short of current market value" of $2.25 million as determined by two commercial real estate brokers. The YMCA had a written offer for a "significantly higher amount" than that estimate, according to the letter, and felt obligated to market the property as of Nov. 1.

Doerhoefer declined to disclose the sale price but said the YMCA was agreeable.

"They feel this is a better way to go for their member and the community," Doerhoefer said.

Katz declined to comment Monday night.

"Frankly, we're unprepared to make a statement. I want to meet with the board," he said.

When the potential closings were announced, village and park district officials immediately agreed to try and find a solution to keep the facility open. The purchase, like any real estate transaction, is subject to due diligence, such as detailed inspections of the mechanical systems and roof, for example.

As part of that process, the park district also will meet with YMCA employees and examining programs to determine if there is any overlap. The Vernon Hills Park District does not have an indoor pool nor does it offer child care, which makes an acquistion desirable.

Though the child care portion of the Y's operation was to have stayed open until Nov. 21, village and park district officials agreed that time was of the essence to keep members from leaving and parents looking for other child care options. The YMCA has 155 children in its programs.

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