Changing times, hard choices
A swimming pool has been a fixture at the downtown Youngstown YWCA and part of the association's programs for 90 of the YW's 98 years here. But the end of the swimming era may by near.
Use of the pool has fallen to the extent that pool fees no longer cover the cost of lifeguards, and the pool will require at least some repairs to remain open for anything longer than a very short time. The YW's board of directors will be discussing the issue tonight.
Connie Shaffer, YWCA executive director, is quite candid in discussing the pool's future. Even if the board were to decide to make whatever repairs are needed now to keep it in operation, a swimming pool is probably not part of the YW's long-term future.
"On the other hand," she says, "if someone were to come along and give us $2 million and say, 'Here, build a new pool with this,' then I'd have to reconsider."
While we can certainly understand the desire of some long-time YW members to preserve something with as much history and tradition as the pool, YW officials and board members must look to the future of the facility and to economic realities.
Expansion: After going through what were undoubtedly difficult years in the late 1980s and early '90s, the YWCA has been expanding its programs and presence in the community over the last decade. Its budget has nearly doubled, and it is now providing a variety of on-site and outreach programs to women and children and families.
As the Youngstown YWCA approaches its centennial in 2004, plans call for an architect to study its W. Rayen Avenue building and make recommendations for how the facilities can be best utilized to serve the association's mission.
Shaffer does not believe a swimming pool will continue to be a part of the downtown facilities under that long-term reappraisal. But she stresses that the YWCA has every intention of not only staying at its downtown site but of making even better use of the facilities.
The question now facing the board is whether to make whatever repairs are necessary to keep the pool open until the reappraisal or whether to close the pool quickly, possibly within a month.
That is not going to be an easy decision, and it is complicated by a number of factors involving the cost, the potential loss of support from those women who continue to use the pool and the YW's commitment to the kind of healthy lifestyle that swimming promotes. On top of that, anyone knows that it is far easier to close a pool than to reopen it.