Montreal

Guy-Favreau YMCA to close, 2 other Montreal Ys to drain pools, close gyms by year's end

The YMCAs of Québec says it can't afford renovations at the Guy-Favreau centre, 17 months after signing a new 10-year lease at the centre. One of the Y volunteers who fought to save it two years ago says he's now in "utter disbelief."

YMCAs of Québec says it can't afford renovations at Guy-Favreau, 17 months after signing new 10-year lease

Phil Chu and his girlfriend met at the Complexe Guy-Favreau YMCA and fought hard to save it two years ago. On Wednesday, YMCAs of Québec announced the centre will close at the end of the year. (Phil Chu)

The Complexe Guy-Favreau YMCA in downtown Montreal will close by the end of the year, and the aquatic and physical activity programs at two other Montreal Ys, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Pointe-Saint-Charles, are also being shut down.

The parent organization for those centres, YMCAs of Québec, made that announcement Wednesday afternoon. 

The Guy-Favreau YMCA's members fought to save their Y two years ago and won. The centre signed a new, 10-year lease with the federal government building's landlord in June 2018.

However, YMCA officials say the cost of "renovations deemed essential to the survival of the centre," first estimated at half a million dollars, has almost tripled. 

"It has become impossible to operate the centre under the current conditions," the YMCAs of Québec said in a news release.

It said athletic programs at the Guy-Favreau centre will be relocated to the downtown YMCA. 

Pools, gyms to close

As for the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Pointe-Saint-Charles centres, the YMCA said even though athletic programs and aquatic activities at those two centres will wind down by the end of the year, "the YMCA has absolutely no intention of leaving these neighbourhoods."

Stéphane Vaillancourt, president and CEO of the YMCAs of Québec, said Wednesday the decision was made to make sure the organization remained financially sustainable. (CBC)

Youth and community programs will be re-evaluated and relocated, gradually, said the YMCA in its statement.

"By making these decisions, our goal is to ensure that our network is better able to adapt to the short and long-term needs of each community," said Stéphane Vaillancourt, president and CEO of the YMCAs of Québec.

Other YMCA centres and points of service will continue to operate as usual.

The non-profit agency said the decisions announced Wednesday are meant "to better meet the changing needs of the individuals and communities they serve," as well as to ensure the YMCAs' "sustainability as a charity."

'Utter disbelief'

Phil Chu, a volunteer at the YMCA Guy-Favreau, fought to keep the centre open two years ago, launching a petition after the centre said it was being forced to close because it could no longer afford the $240,000 per year rent. 

That petition garnered 3,000 signatures within a week, resulting in a deal with the federal government to reduce the  annual rent to a symbolic $1, so the centre could stay open for at least the next 10 years. 

"To be slapped with this less than two years later, it's just — utter disbelief," Chu said. 

The centre is a home away from home for its members, he said, and a place where people feel comfortable.

"It's just a melting pot of good people," Chu said.

"They come from all over Montreal to the centre — from Brossard, Ville Saint-Laurent, Verdun — you name it."

Even though the programs at the Guy-Favreau YMCA are being moved to the Stanley Street YMCA, Chu says he can't imagine the people who go to Guy-Favreau following them there.

"They go to Guy-Favreau for a reason — that's where they feel comfortable," said Chu. He said if people wanted to go to the downtown Y, they would have already done so.

But Chu isn't giving up just yet.

He says he plans to get in touch with his city councillor, Robert Beaudry, to see what can be done to keep the Guy Favreau centre open, even if it means it would no longer be managed by the YMCA.

"Let's find a way to keep the centre open, by any means necessary."

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