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YMCA forced to sell facility

The YMCA, Modesto
The YMCA, Modesto Modesto Bee

Millions of dollars of debt has forced the YMCA of Stanislaus County to put its Modesto building up for sale, leaders announced at a private meeting Wednesday evening.

The organization will try to continue exercise programs and other services at locations yet to be determined, Executive Director Phil McGovern told about 50 members. He said the nonprofit was $2.5 million in debt.

A buyer for the McHenry Avenue building has not been lined up, but McGovern said a deal could close by the end of the year. The timeline for ending YMCA services at its facility has not been set, he said.

McGovern refused to answer questions from The Bee before the meeting and said he did not know whether board members would allow him to speak today. The Bee was unable to reach YMCA board president Steve Ward.

Board members in November acknowledged the notion of selling the 64,000-square-foot building, which includes two indoor swimming pools, a gymnasium and a fitness center. Thousands of children and adults have learned to swim, played sports and exercised there over the past four decades.

By late last year, the YMCA had rung up nearly $2 million in debt, spent $408,000 in supposedly untouchable endowment fund principal and had not produced audits for two years. In a November letter, board members apologized to supporters and pledged to avoid past mistakes.

McGovern came on board in December and said in April that selling the building was not an option.

The situation apparently changed Wednesday. A notice on the YMCA's Web site invited full-facility members, or people who attend the YMCA year-round, to an "informational membership meeting."

Before the meeting, McGovern characterized it as an annual "state of the YMCA" event he plans to stage each year in the fall. He said The Bee would not be permitted entrance, but a member who attended the meeting confirmed the announcement.

The YMCA has been plagued in recent years by declining membership and difficulties with vendors and its bank, and leaders drained endowment capital bequeathed by deceased community leaders.

The YMCA occupied part of five acres it acquired when the association moved to McHenry Avenue 44 years ago, but sold about two acres years ago.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.

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