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Monday, January 3, 2005

Y not

The Portland-area YMCA appears to be having some financial difficulties. It's closing the eastside Y on NE Broadway to save money (Graggalicious condo tower to come), and it's got a new membership campaign in full swing, with broadcast TV ads and an insert in today's paper.

My wife and I were members of the Y years ago, when we lived near its flagship facility near Duniway Park on Lair Hill. It was a nice enough place to work out, but expensive. Then one day, after many months of membership, the front desk clerk hassled my wife over not having a slip of paper needed to admit a guest. She could prove her identity and her own membership, and the clerk could tell from the computer screen in front of him that we had plenty of unused guest passes at home. But unless she went home and got that slip of paper, her guest wasn't coming in.

We cancelled our membership that day, and have not set foot in a Y facility since. We learned that there were several less expensive, friendlier, better organized alternatives available to us.

There's $100 a month the Y hasn't gotten over the last 10 years or so. And I'm sure we weren't the only ones. Now it's got its happy face back on. I wish them luck, but it's too late to pitch that to me.

Comments (3)

Back in it's earlier form the Y provided much needed social services to the community. This included temporary housing for young men and outreach services. It also had a much more "christian" mission than that of offering a fitness center and a smattering of sparsley attended workshops.

Some organizations are able to adapt themselves as new generations assemble, and older generations faze out. If the Y is serious about seeing itself through the next ten years or so it must provide something more relevant than a gym and pool. By setting itself up to compete with the private sector, the Y in the end is unable to offer the fancy new facilities, latest equipment, and as Jack Bog pointed out, lesser customer service than the offerings in the private sector at half the price.

It's sad to me to see charitable organizations pack up and head out of town, but ineveitably, if a need exists, some other organziation will surely step up to fill the void if the need is great enough. Unfortunantly the NE Y serves a shrinking base, many of which are an older generation that remember the usefullness and greatness of the Y in it's glory days. Perhaps finding a community or senior center in the nearby neighborhood could accomidate the needs of these people.

Another point, the NE Y is two blocks away from a private fitness facility that plans on a major renovation in the near future. Even if they manage to keep the creaky Y open, it will be unable to attract any substantive additional members allowing the continuation of current operations, not to mention additional needed upgrades and repairs.

Several years ago, NASCAR Baby attended a birthday for one of his little friends that was held at the Y on Lair Hill; during the party, staffed entirely by Y employees, my wallet was stolen from my purse. When I reported this to the front desk, I was told "tough luck" (the second word actually used also contained 4 letters but did not start with the letter "l"). When I tried to follow up with the management about the theft and about the lousy reaction from the staff, they could not have been ruder or cared less. No ad they could now run, or bull they could now try to sell me will convince me that they have any right to my business. Haven't set foot inside since, and never will.

Yep, that's it exactly.

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