Local branch to be purchased by Kettle Moraine association as Metro Milwaukee YMCA declares bankruptcy
The Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA will merge with the Kettle Moraine YMCA in West Bend as part of a bankruptcy restructuring plan announced Wednesday morning by the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee.
A letter of intent to purchase the Feith Family YMCA was signed by the Kettle Moraine Y and approved by the Metro Y board on Tuesday, officials said.
Court approval is needed before the sale is finalized because the Metro YMCA filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, acknowledging its debt is more than $29 million. Its budgeted revenue for this year is $37 million, YMCA officials said.
Pending that approval, operations, membership benefits, programs and services at the Feith YMCA should continue as normal, Metro Y officials said.
But Rob Johnson, executive director of the Kettle Moraine YMCA, warned there are still challenges to overcome before the sale is completed — something officials hope will occur by Dec. 15.
“It’s not a done deal,” he said. “There’s a lot of due diligence to be done.”
Chief among the items to be addressed is the cost of the acquisition, said Johnson, who would not disclose the price.
The Kettle Moraine board of directors needs to determine if it can take on the necessary debt for the purchase and whether a local fundraising campaign would be undertaken, he said.
However, he added, the Kettle Moraine board is excited about the proposed acquisition, adding the two Ys have worked together through the years.
“We feel we are very similar and can complement each other,” he said. “We really think the members and the community have spoken, and we can see the passion they have for their YMCA.”
Announced almost two months after the Metro YMCA said it was working on a restructuring plan to resolve unsustainable debt, the deal is likely the best outcome for the local Y, Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA board member Bill Moren said.
“We’ve gone through this period of uncertainty. Now, there’s some certainty,” he said. “There’s certainly some commonality between the communities the Kettle Moraine Y focuses on and the communities that make up the Feith Family YMCA.
“This is an opportunity for us to focus on the Y and the benefits it brings people here. There really is an opportunity to move ahead. It will make us all stronger and better.”
Tom Didier, another member of the Feith YMCA board, concurred.
“I’m relieved and thrilled,” he said. “I think it’s a huge, positive step in the right direction for us. There are a lot of good things that will come of this.”
The Kettle Moraine YMCA appears to be a strong organization, Moren said, just as the Feith Family Y is a strong branch.
The Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA has between 9,000 and 10,000 members, and the Kettle Moraine Y has 12,600 members.
The Kettle Moraine YMCA was founded in 1969 as a branch of the Metro Y, but became an independent association in 1973.
It operates two facilities in West Bend. Its West Washington facility is a full-service operation serving everyone from small children to senior citizens and includes a gym and pool, while its River Shores location focuses on offering services to beginning adult exercisers.
The initial announcement by the Metro YMCA that it was looking to restructure caused speculation that the local Y could be shuttered or programs cut.
“I never thought there was a possibility of us closing,” Moren said. “It was just a question of what the best alternative for us would be.”
Moren said he anticipates the transition from the Metro YMCA to the Kettle Moraine Y will go smoothly.
“There’s lot of things still to work out,” he said. “I think it’s an exciting time.”
The sale of the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA is just one of the steps announced Wednesday by the Metro YMCA.
The Metro YMCA is refocusing on its urban Milwaukee mission and selling the majority of its real estate assets, including the Ozaukee branch, to pay its debt, officials said.
“We believe this plan represents the most comprehensive solution possible for resolving the Y’s urgent financial and operating challenges and is the Y’s best shot at survival,” said Bob Venable, chairman of the Metro Y’s board of directors.