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YMCA begins renovations, deals with financial problems

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The North Central Florida YMCA at 5201 NW 34th St. in Gainesville will be closed Monday through Friday for renovations.

The childcare program, which takes care of about 150 children, will remain open throughout the project’s duration.

John Bonacci, the CEO of the North Central Florida YMCA, said the renovations were not forced by a regulatory body but was instead his idea.

The renovation includes fixing a leaky roof as well as cleaning high-traffic floors, locker rooms, air ducts and sprinklers.

Bonacci said the YMCA didn’t schedule the renovations on a holiday because the club has special events and still has childcare programs on those days. He said many members come to the pool or gym when they don’t have work, too.

“We’ve tried to pile everything up in a coordinated manner into as small a block period as we can and just go through and get as many of these projects as we can done without putting any members at risk,” he said. “The easiest and avenue of least resistance is to actually shut down the majority of our programs.”

Some members, though, aren’t happy about the inconvenience.

“It’s hard to keep up with my routine if I’m not here, so it’s going to be really easy to not want to come back after the week’s over,” said YMCA member Kim Hart. “But I’ll try to do something while I’m home.”

The renovations are part of Bonacci’s plan to help the YMCA climb out of bankruptcy.

“Given the economy and given that we are an agency that is in an active bankruptcy, we haven’t got reserves sitting in the savings account for us to go to when we need it, things are tight,” he said. “Making sure that all the bills are getting paid at times can be an art form.”

New programs are a source of revenue, too.

Bonacci said the YMCA now offers massage therapy, a 90-day weightloss challenge and a smoothie and juice bar. Its childcare program now has dance, cheerleading and color guard extensions.

Childcare Director Brook Bauzon said another program called Gator Gamedays allows parents to drop off children and go to UF football games.

Bonacci said the stress of running a financially troubled YMCA is worth it, though.

“After a very long day, [I was] walking out and a member was walking in and she turned to me and she said, ‘I love the new Y.’ That’s all she said, continued on in the building to go about her business, and I continued on with the rest of my evening,” he said. “But it’s comments like that make these long days and all the trials and tribulations worthwhile.”

About Kelly Price

Kelly is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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