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Site Analysis Concludes YMCA Business Model Not Viable in Watauga, Discussions of Watauga YMCA Likely ‘Dead’

By Jesse Wood

Sept. 25, 2013. A recent site analysis shows that a YMCA business (membership) model isn’t viable in Watauga County.

In January, the board of the Catawba Valley YMCA contributed $2,500 to conduct the site analysis.

According to an email from Brian Lowe, an advocate for a YMCA in Watauga County, the study found only 970 potential members for the local YMCA. Because a YMCA requires 1,400 memberships for a healthy YCMA center, Lowe wrote, the Catawba Valley YMCA is unable to go forward with planning of a YMCA in Watauga County.  

Therefore, Lowe mentioned that advocates of a local YMCA have two options:

  • Commission a more substantial site analysis to the tune of $16,000 that would be the definitive stance on the viability of a Watauga County YMCA
  • Conclude that YMCA membership model is not viable on the basis of the initial site analysis, reducing the options for a first-rate recreation facility down to one: a public-funded county recreation center

imgres-3On Wednesday afternoon, Lowe said that the Catawba Valley YMCA has no intentions of paying for another study and unless some entity or donor forks over $16,000 for the definitive site analysis, “the discussion of a YMCA is dead.”

Lowe added that he made overtures to two members of the Watauga County Economic Development Commission to help fund the $16,000 study but “haven’t had any positive response.”

“I would say unless someone comes forth with another idea to gather $16,000 or wants to put up [the funds], then the discussion of a Watauga YMCA isn’t going to go any further,” Lowe said.

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners heard a presentation about a potential YMCA during the budget retreats in February from Bob Conklin, CEO of Catawba Valley YMCA. At that presentation, Commissioner Nathan Miller noted that while the county might be willing to allow the use of county land for the project, he had no intention of spending money on a YMCA.

“Throwing money and land at something that is not going to be under our control — I don’t know that that’s necessarily something we would want to do,” Miller added in February.

While Conklin said the potential project was in an exploratory stage, the commissioners were intrigued with the idea and agreed to continue discussions in the future.

Lowe noted that in a small survey of 79 respondents conducted this summer, about half wanted to pursue spending more money on the detailed site analysis. However, 84 percent supported a county recreation center if a YMCA is no longer an option.

For more information or to offer ideas for this project, email highcountryrecreation@gmail.com.

For previous discussions, meeting about a YMCA in Watauga, click here: https://www.hcpress.com/tag/watauga-county-ymca