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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
It made him sick to his stomach, knowing that the pool was going to close. For years, he'd gone to the Downtown YWCA to swim laps. He found that swimming soothed his injured back, and now he was being told that the pool, the one with the big windows and all that indoor light, was going away.
"I couldn't go back," said Thomas Fisher, who splits his time between New York and a condo in the Short North. "I was too physically upset knowing it was going to be filled up with cement."
The 85-year-old pool at the YWCA's Griswold Building at 65 S. 4th St. is closing in the spring, officials announced last month. It, along with the building's fitness center, will be eliminated during a $20 million renovation of the YWCA that aims to better prepare chronically homeless women to live on their own.
The renovation will triple the size of current residential rooms and add three floors of housing, upgrading the dormlike rooms to efficiency apartments that have their own bathrooms and kitchens. And it will wipe out the fitness center -- including the pool, weights and basketball court -- that the public can now use for about $38 a month, or $6 a day.
YWCA officials said the escalating homeless demand coupled with the shrinking interest in the building's fitness options make it logical to boost one and drop the other.
"The fitness center has been losing about $50,000 a year," said YWCA spokeswoman Patti O'Toole. "With the increase in demand for housing and services by homeless families and women, we can't afford to subsidize the pool any longer."
Memberships in the fitness center have been decreasing, said Andrew Wall, the director of physical resources at YWCA Columbus. There are about 180 members now, only a third of whom use the pool.
"Our pool is highly underutilized," O'Toole said. "I think that's what makes it popular to people who use it."
But some of those who do use it are fiercely protective of their Downtown swimming hole. Fisher said he heard the pool would close while he was in the locker room, where "the mood was just so somber and everyone was kind of shell-shocked."
Sue Daly, of Galena, who has been using the pool since the 1970s, said she heard about the closing from an employee last month and got a letter from the organization a few days later.
"I was fairly upset," Daly said. "I mean, I've been going there for over 35 years."
Daly isn't ready to accept the closing. She said she requested copies of the YWCA's tax filings and bylaws and wrote a letter to the organization's president. Daly, who believes that closing the fitness center conflicts with YWCA's core values, said she has not received a response, which she considers "a slap in the face."
So she's going to keep writing to board members and requesting information and seeing if there isn't some way to change their minds.
"There's other ways to deal with a shortfall than just closing the whole facility," she said.
Fred Squillante / Dispatch The pool at the Downtown YWCA is set to close permanently in the spring for a major renovation that will make more room for services for homeless women.