MARK BENNETT: Seniors continue working to reopen Y pool that's transformed lives

Tribune-Star file photo/Austen Leake 

Deal reached: Mayor Duke Bennett today said there's been a verbal agreement reached between the city and the YMCA to reopen the Y's pool, which has been closed since September. The pool is in a city owned building at Fairbanks Park. 

After months of negotiations, Mayor Duke Bennett said Thursday he has reached an “agreement in principle” with the YMCA of the Wabash Valley to re-open the indoor pool at the Y in Terre Haute's Fairbanks Park.

Duke Bennett

Duke Bennett

“The agreement is verbal and will be put in writing to present the YMCA board,” Bennett said. “I suspect that we will have formal, final (agreement) in the next few weeks.

YMCA officials closed the pool in September, citing the cost of needed updates and ongoing operations. Calling themselves “Y Make Waves,” some senior citizen members of the organization lobbied to reverse the decision and Bennett took up the charge in December.

The agreement calls for the city to pick up some costs of pool operation with the YMCA operating the pool, something Bennett made clear he did not want the city to do.

“I never wanted (the city) to hire lifeguards and do all that stuff,” he said.

The city owns the building that houses the YMCA and the pool agreement will mirror that in place with Chances and Services for Youth at Booker T. Washington Community Center, which the city also owns, Bennett said.

“We'll kind of make both of these things look very similar in a lease format,” he said.

The Y Make Waves group “never lost faith because we know the principals involved value this for the community,” said member Brenda Williams. “It was just coming together with ideas that are workable for everybody. Mayor Bennett has stepped up with the same plan he has had from the beginning.”

Ryan Penrod, CEO of the YMCA of the Wabash Valley, sent this statement by email:

"A YMCA board member and I met with Mayor Bennett earlier this month. We discussed the possibility of reopening the pool and signing a new facility lease. The meeting was positive and we agreed on several items.

"Continued discussion of negotiating items is needed prior to making an announcement that an agreement has been reached."

Penrod later added, "The Y understands the value of aquatic activities. We are doing our due diligence to ensure the Y is in a financial position to support the operations of the pool long term. Until the YMCA reaches an agreement with the city in writing, the pool will remain closed."

Williams said that Y officials "are cooperating fully and … want to be sure that everything is in place before they do much talking,” she said. “The agreement hopefully will move forward as quickly as it can to benefit all. It's a partnership that we've all been waiting for and are really glad to see met.”

Y Make Waves says it will help the city and the YMCA with fundraising to keep the partnership sustainable, she said.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include the YMCA's response at 4:03 p.m. today. 

Dave Taylor can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dave.taylor@tribstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarDave.

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