UPDATE: Changes at Booker Washington Center

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UPDATE: ROCKFORD (WIFR) – The Booker Washington Center has asked the ‘Y’ to leave the facility by September 7th. Just last week, the YMCA gave its 60-day notice that it was leaving. We spoke with a new management team at Booker to see what’s next for the financially strapped facility.

Marcellus Wilkes works out at the YMCA inside the Booker Washington Center several times a week, but he'll soon have to find a new place to stay fit. Booker sent a letter to the YMCA asking them to move out within 30 days.

“They don't pay any rent, they pay no utilities, they pay for their staff, and we just can't afford it,” said Jessie Bates with the Booker Management team.

Booker's other 10 to 12 tenants do pay rent, something Booker had asked of the 'Y.'

"We gave them the option of paying $1000/month in rent, helping with the utilities and they said they didn't want to do that "

“I don't think it's unreasonable for the ‘Y’ to support Booker financially and through programs, but rent changes a collaboration and a partnership from being a partner to a tenant," said Mike Brown, President/CEO with the YMCA of Rock River Valley.

Management at Booker say they're not even sure kids are benefiting from this center. They say they barely see youth here, using
the equipment. “I have only seen, since I’ve been here this week, about 3 people over there and they were all adults, no youth that I’ve seen go in there," said Geneva Anderson.

Wilkes says he doesn't see many kids in here either. As the 'Y' leaves for good, Booker will close this building and move the remaining tenants into its facility next door, until they can afford to re-open.

Bates and Anderson took over operations at Booker back in June. They’ll be around anywhere from 6 months to a year to help the struggling center restructure.

The YMCA will remove its exercise equipment from Booker. They’ll also send out requests for proposals from other local community centers. The ‘Y’ would like to relocate into another facility, preferable on the west side.

UPDATE: ROCKFORD (WIFR) – Things just got more complicated for the already financially strapped Booker Washington Center in Rockford. Kids will no longer be able to work out at the YMCA inside the Booker Washington Center. The ‘Y’ is leaving the facility on September 30.

“There’s a certain point where the YMCA says enough is enough.”

Mike Brown, president and CEO of the Rock River Valley ‘Y’ says Booker is not treating this like a partnership.
“To give us a 5 bullet point sheet that says you’re going to pay $1,000/month in rent, insurance and no competing programs and so forth is not a collaboration and they need to come back if they want the ‘Y’ there with a description of what a true collaboration looks like.”

Brown says it is not about the money, because the YMCA already pays much more in staffing costs and says this is not just a fitness center.

It is a relationship opportunity. A potential child comes in to work out, they meet our staff, and it is a potential for a relationship. When we talk about crime and education issues in our community, then the ‘Y’ is a tool for Booker to use to bring that community together.

We did reach out to consultants with Booker Washington as they were leaving a meeting with Brown, but they refused to comment.

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – More turbulence surrounding Rockford’s Booker Washington Center as the organization struggles financially. We learned today it may now be losing its partnership with the YMCA.

The YMCA right now has a gym at the center but if they leave they’d be joining a long list of organizations backing away from a community center that just seems to keep sinking into financial abyss.

The Booker Washington Center’s board members are developing a reputation of being stubborn according to some community members. That stubbornness is partially why the YMCA says they’re considering moving out of the 100 year old community center. The big rift seems to have come in the last couple weeks. The YMCA of the Rock River Valley says they've wanted to work with the center to help manage them out of the money mess they’re in, but instead of working with the YMCA, Booker wants to start charging them rent and charging them insurance.

“The YMCA simply just has to move itself elsewhere,” said Rock River Valley YMCA CEO and President Mike Brown. “We’re done. Until adults start to realize the impact they’re having on the youth and families in that community, I’m not really sure the YMCA’s future can be at the Booker Center.

We reached out Booker’s board members but they declined to say anything other than this move by the YMCA is catching by surprise.
Brown and members of Booker will meet tomorrow at 11am.

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