Exercise Break 

Mason YMCA to close at the end of the year.

YMCA members in the University of Memphis area will have to find another place to work off holiday flab when the New Year arrives.

After operating more than 50 years at 3548 Walker, the Mason YMCA will close its doors on December 31st.

The local YMCA's Metro Board of Directors made the decision to close the facility after conducting a study on the building that revealed a need for $2.6 million in repairs.

Keith Johnson, president and CEO of the YMCA in Memphis and the Mid-South, said those repairs include updating heating and air conditioning units, boilers, and roofing.

"We did some of those repairs [after the study was completed], and they cost three times more than the estimate. So we decided that if that was the case, [the rest of the repairs were] too much to try to tackle," Johnson said.

Johnson said the closing of the building is strictly an economic decision and has been discussed for the last several years. The closing will affect more than 40 employees. Johnson said they would try to disperse as many Mason workers as possible to other YMCA branches.

But employees aren't the only ones being displaced. The Mason YMCA houses 42 low-income residents in dormitory rooms leased for $200 to $400 per month. They will have until January 31st to find a new place to live, but they'll be allowed to take the YMCA's furnishings with them when they leave.

"We're going to help in any way we can to get them placed into apartments and other housing in the area," Johnson said. "We think they'll be able to find suitable housing, particularly if some of them have made friends with each other and can be roommates."

Besides the $2.6 million needed for repairs, an additional $2 million to $3 million is needed to bring the facility up to YMCA standards. This includes improving the quality of the fitness center, locker rooms, meeting room, nursery, and pool. The exercise equipment in the Mason YMCA doesn't need an upgrade.

The fate of the building has not been decided, but Johnson said they're talking with other organizations that are interested in purchasing it.

Johnson said renovating the Mason YMCA would have affected the budget split among eight other local facilities.

"If we're spending $5 million to $6 million at one branch, we can't spend that to maintain our facilities in other branches," Johnson said. "Our members are members at all of our branches. We hope that they continue to visit the branch of their choice when Mason closes."

The closing of the Mason YMCA leaves a geographic gap. There are no YMCA branches in Midtown, and after Mason's closure, Midtowners will have to drive downtown or to East Memphis branches.

Mason YMCA executive director Cynthia Magallon-Puljic said she understands the decision to close but is saddened that the facility where she's worked and exercised for eight years will no longer be operating.

"I think we've been a wonderful part of the community, and I will miss being here," Magallon-Puljic said. "I will miss seeing my members every day."

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