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Jun 26

YMCA to partner with South Bend’s O’Brien Fitness Center after closure of city Y branch – South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND The YMCA of Greater Michiana is partnering with South Bends parks department to offer services to Y members at the citys OBrien Fitness Center, an announcement that comes just over a month after the Y branch in the city suddenly closed.

Members of both the Y and OBrien Center will get full access to the center, 321 E. Walter St., according to a release from South Bend Venues, Parks & Arts. South Bend-Mishawaka Y members will get free access through August, with a new rate plan to be announced in the fall.

Advocates for the South Bend Y have been pushing to keep the branch open since May, when the YMCA of Greater Michiana announced its closure, blaming ongoing financial problems made worse by revenue losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The closure came about four months after the South Bend Y merged with the YMCA of Southwest Michigan, with officials from the Michigan organization taking over leadership.

Supporters of the South Bend Y have voiced anger over some aspects of the abrupt closure, including the fact Y leadership had asked members to keep their plans active and continue paying fees despite the branch having closed for more than two months because of the virus.

Advocates also have questioned why the South Bend branch closed while the Niles-Buchanan location was undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation, and why YMCA officials secured, but did not spend, about $800,000 in federal coronavirus relief that could have been used to reopen and pay workers.

When we began looking for an opportunity to continue serving the South Bend area, the OBrien Center became an obvious solution, Mark Weber, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Michiana, said in the news release.

Weber said an expansion already underway at the OBrien Center provides a great opportunity for our members to have a home at another building in the community.

According to the announcement, the partnership between the Y and OBrien Center will include programs that were popular at the Y, such as the Silver Sneakers group for seniors. Scholarships will be available, and no children or families will be denied membership because of inability to pay.

The plan doesnt satisfy South Bend Y supporters who want to see the branch on Northside Boulevard reopened.

Tom Cooper, a former South Bend Y board member who is leading the campaign to save the branch, said the announcement of the OBrien Center plan surprised advocates who as recently as last week were in talks with Y leadership about options for the Northside facility.

Cooper said the OBrien Center cannot accommodate the several thousand South Bend Y members. He and others also pointed out the OBrien Center does not have a swimming pool. That means the facility wont be able to serve as home to the Ys youth swim team, the Stingrays, or host fitness classes for older people who are limited to water exercise.

The reopening of the Northside facility under local control has been the goal since day one, and it becomes even more significant today, Cooper said.

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YMCA to partner with South Bend's O'Brien Fitness Center after closure of city Y branch - South Bend Tribune

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