October 20, 2014

Elyria
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YMCA: Tax hike or no services

The YMCA of Greater Cleveland has a vision for Lorain County that could see the return of services in Elyria, Lorain and Amherst.
But before residents in those communities can reap the benefits of YMCA programming, residents in Avon must pass a 0.25-percentage point income tax increase to get their own facility built.

The proposed 67,200 square-foot, full-service membership branch, to be at state Route 611 and Interstate 90, will be the anchor future expansion into county will be tethered on, said Glenn Haley, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland.
Without it, future program development for Lorain County could be dead in the water.

“Avon is the primary focus, but the push will also be to get into other areas of the community,” Haley said. “But this has to be the first step toward us getting a foothold in the community.”

The city of Avon will put up $8 million of the $14.2 million project — a contribution that hinges on voter approval next month. From there, the YMCA is confident they can raise the remainder of the capital needed to put a Y-express facility on Cooper Foster Park Road in Amherst and renovate the YWCA on West Avenue in Elyria.

The YMCA of Greater Cleveland was not the organization responsible for operating and then closing the doors of the Elyria and Lorain YMCAs last year, but it certainly wants to be the ones to bring services back.

“We are an organization that is focused on family. We are accessible to all in the community — not just those who can afford to pay,” Haley said.

Avon Mayor Jim Smith said there is a lot more at stake next month than whether Avon residents get their recreation center.
“When I heard that the county swim meet was in Akron, I couldn’t believe it,” Smith said. “This facility is needed to keep the kids in the county where they belong.”

The plan calls for the proposed 120-acre site to grow to include a Lorain County Metro Parks’ Splash Zone, complete with six-lane competitive swimming pool, an ice hockey and skating rink, indoor soccer facility, tennis courts and youth baseball and softball fields.

“But you got to show someone you already have a successful program before you start asking them for money to fund another,” Smith added, saying the Avon facility would be what draws in funds for the other county projects.

“This has been done before, but not in this area. I don’t have a dog in this fight. I think it’s very important for the people.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.