Sale of Central Lake YMCA in Vernon Hills pondered as answer for financial woes
A potential rescue of the Central Lake YMCA in Vernon Hills is being forged in an evolving deal that could result in the sale of the facility and land.
The village could buy the site and the Vernon Hills Park District could operate the facility at 700 Lakeview Parkway, which YMCA officials announced about three weeks ago will close Oct. 31 because of financial difficulties.
With fundraising far short of the stated $5 million to $8 million needed to keep the doors open at the Vernon Hills and Waukegan sites -- comprising the Lake County Family YMCA -- it appears a sale may be the only hope of continued operation.
"Things are going 1,000 miles an hour," said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director of the park district. "We need to do our due diligence before we put something before the Y and their board."
How that transaction may work in Vernon Hills is expected to be more clearly defined during special meetings next week. Any deal likely will involve the village, which has commissioned an appraisal, and may be the entity actually making the offer. Some type of joint purchase or loan payback from the park district are possibilities.
"This is all evolving rather quickly," said Village Manager Mike Allison. "We want to go through the process of potentially buying it."
The park district has scheduled a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Laschen Community Center, 294 Evergreen Drive. Citizens can address the board, which then will go into closed session to consider the purchase of the YMCA.
"We have some more financial information we'd like to get," from the YMCA, Fougerousse said. He said the intent was to get a deal in place "and keep the doors open at the Y."
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, park district commissioners and the Vernon Hills village board will meet in a special session at village hall, 290 Evergreen Drive. Public comment is on the agenda in advance of a closed session to consider the purchase of the 30,000-square-foot building on 9 acres.
Whether that will happen, how the offer would be structured and other details are to be determined.
"At this juncture, it's keeping options open to see if there's an arrangement to be made," Allison said. "We need to talk about terms and part of it is price."
At an initial Oct. 4 special joint meeting with village trustees and park commissioners, Lake County Family YMCA officials pegged the value of the Vernon Hills building and land at about $2 million.
Hal Katz, the organization's interim CEO, also said the YMCA has a debt of $6 million and an $800,000 per year operating deficit. YMCA officials said they unsuccessfully tried membership drives and other possibilities that fell short.
The organization announced a fundraising blitz but had raised just $11,087 as of Thursday morning. Donations will be refunded if the goal isn't met.
By late September, the board felt the doors could no longer be kept open. While the facility would close Oct. 31, child care programs will remain open until Nov. 21.
An indoor pool that includes other features and the child care program, which has 155 kids enrolled, are of interest for the park district, Fougerousse said.
"We feel those are two key amenities we don't provide to our constituents and we see value in that," he added.
Village and park district officials say it is imperative to act quickly to resolve the matter, particularly regarding the child care program, so parents can be reassured before they look elsewhere.
"We're doing this to keep this thing going. One of the concerns is the day care would close," Allison said.