Immediately following the vote in November of 2019 which halted the community center project a social media post was made by businessman and former Harrison Mayor Jeff Crockett about bringing a YMCA to town. This suggestion sparked a lot of attention, but it is not a new idea. Crockett and the city leaders of the time attempted this feat nearly ten years ago. Yet neither of these attempts has resulted in a path toward a Harrison YMCA location. Why?
Former City Councilman Shannon Snow shed some light on this question saying that in talking to the YMCA they “did not try to talk us into anything,” instead they, “tried to talk of out of everything.” Snow said that in a recent video conference with YMCA executives it became evident that their organization is working to keep their existing facilities open instead of building new ones. Over the last ten years the YMCA has closed over 100 locations in the country while opening only three new facilities. An additional 150 locations have ongoing financial struggles.
Getting a new YMCA facility in a community is also a long and difficult process without the internal financial woes. In the previous attempt to build a YMCA Snow along with other city leaders were actively engaged in raising funds. The YMCA, at that time, required two thirds of the first three years of operating cost be raised by donors before construction began. After two years and collecting nearly all the required money the YMCA changed their structure to then require all three years of operating expenses up front, dashing the hopes of a Harrison YMCA.
Snow cited other difficulties with the organization such as the three months it took to simply set up an initial conference call to begin asking the necessary questions to move the project forward. Some community members also saw the YMCA as a threat to Harrison’s Parks and Recreation department. Snow said that the YMCA does not try to compete with a city’s existing parks facilities, but that perception turned some citizens off to the idea from the start.
This time all the original concerns exist with the addition of another, Planet Fitness. Planet Fitness is known for offering gym memberships at drastically reduced prices making it difficult for organizations like the YMCA to sustain themselves. Snow’s thoughts regarding the YMCA go along with the consensus of other city leaders like Mayor Jerry Jackson, Chamber of Commerce President Bob Largent, and others which suggest that the YMCA is simply not going to be a viable option for Harrison.