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Waukesha YMCA pumps up its expansion plans

Local group vies for three facilities from bankrupt Milwaukee Y

June 6, 2014

With the bankruptcy of its easterly sister organization, the Waukesha-based YMCA group may acquire three of the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee's westernmost facilities.

Looking to pay down its debt, the Milwaukee Y announced June 4 it plans to sell most of its centers outside urban Milwaukee.

Though financial details have yet to be finalized, the YMCA of Central Waukesha County has signed a letter of intent to purchase West Suburban YMCA in Wauwatosa, Tri-County YMCA in Menomonee Falls and Southwest YMCA in Greenfield.

Chris Becker, chief executive officer of the Waukesha YMCA, said his organization has been considering the purchases over the last two weeks. Due to the sites' proximity to Waukesha County — the Menomonee Falls facility is actually within the county — he said he thought it would be a "natural fit."

Becker said his organization is in a better financial position than the Milwaukee YMCA to run the facilities. While the Milwaukee YMCA had about $30 million in debt, Becker said the Waukesha organization has about $2 million in debt, primarily from building and opening a location in Mukwonago two years ago. He said the Waukesha YMCA has been paying off that debt incrementally.

Becker said purchasing the three YCMAs will require taking on more debt, but he said donors have already stepped up to help with the purchase and stressed that the institution is stable.

"Don't lose trust in the YMCA," Becker said, indirectly addressing members and program participants. "The YMCA will be a strong and viable organization for years to come."

Becker said there would be no service disruptions during the planned transfer of ownership.

"There should be no disruption whatsoever," Becker said. "The members will have their YMCA, it will continue to operate, and we are really excited to enhance the operations of these longstanding facilities."

Although he could not give details, Becker said the Waukesha YMCA is planning to "reinvest in facilities and improvements" at all three sites.

The addition of the three sites would almost double the size of the Waukesha group, which, in addition to the Mukwonago location, includes two facilities in Waukesha (including the new Carroll University branch) and a new facility in the works in Sussex.

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