Regulars at the YWCA Gallery Place Fitness and Aquatics Center may soon be pulled out of the water. Due to a budget shortfall, the YWCA is threatening to close the pool for good.
“The pool costs $200,000 per year…the board can’t make ends meet,” says Orysia Stanchak, executive director of the National Capital Area YWCA. Stanchak says hard numbers are difficult to come by—some YWCA members pay for pool use as part of their standard membership—but she estimates that about 175 people purchase “pool-only” packages at $50 a month. “We cannot afford to keep the pool open at those rates,” she says.
Some Y members have banded together for a mission ripped from a bad ’80s comedy: raise $200,000 by Sept. 8, or there may be no more laps. “It’s like a reality show,” says Tamara Alfson, co-chair of the fundraising committee formed by members committed to saving the pool. And as they look under their couches for briefcases full of cash, Alfson and others have questions about financial management—and why the YWCA couldn’t predict and address the facility’s financial problems before notifying members of the pool’s impending closure in late July.
Stanchak says the task force need not have $200,000 in hand on Sept. 8—the pool could reopen if a workable long-term plan is presented to the board later next month. “If someone said, ‘We’re going to sell cookies,’ everyone knows that’s not doable,” Stanchak says. “If someone says, ‘These energy savings save $30,000,’ we can take a step forward.”
Still, Alfson—who uses the pool as part of her physical-therapy regimen for a debilitating joint condition—is not optimistic about the task force’s chances. “We’re not going to have $200,000 by Sept. 8 unless someone flies in and drops money on us,” she says.