YMCA to stop operations at ULM, go mobile with services - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

YMCA to stop operations at ULM, go mobile with services

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MONROE, La. (AP) - Chief executive Ronita Ross says the YMCA of Northeast Louisiana is ending its contract to run the swimming pool at ULM.

She says it became clear that the Lake C. Oxford Natatorium would never break even.

University President Nick Bruno says the school probably will close the pool permanently at the end of April.

It had planned to close the pool in 2011, but agreed to give the YMCA a chance to operate it for the community.

The 'Y' had to decide by March 31 whether to extend its contract.

Ross estimates it would cost at least $500,000 to bring the pool up to standard, without considering operational expenses.

Students voted last year to use the natatorium fee for other services.

 MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - According to the CDC, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years, and the fifth leading cause for people of all ages. Louisiana is in the top 10 states, having the highest rates in overall unintentional drowning.

YMCA CEO Ronita Ross says, "During this time of scarce resources and limited access, the YMCA must continue to find ways to partner with volunteers and community agencies to provide programs that promote our mission to build healthy spirit, mind and body FOR ALL. We feel we've found a more meaningful way to educate entire families on water safety, by taking our aquatics programs and staff into communities that need our programs the most." In August 2010, six Shreveport Louisiana teens from two families drowned in the Red River while trying to save a friend that slid into deeper waters. None of the teenagers or the adults watching from the riverbank could swim, and nationally, 70% of African-American youth can't swim.  Over the past months, the YMCA of Northeast Louisiana has been working on a strategy to expand the reach of its Aquatics Program to have the greatest possible community impact. As we approached our March 31, 2014 deadline to renew or extend our management agreement of the Oxford Natatorium with ULM; and after a full financial review of the expenses needed to maintain the facility in its current condition, the YMCA decided to end its contract to manage the ULM Oxford Natatorium effective April 30, 2014, and to take the aquatics program mobile.

ULM Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Wayne Brumfield said, "I appreciated working with the YMCA staff in their efforts to provide aquatic services to the community at large, and ULM students, faculty, and staff."

In 2013 the YMCA acquired a Mobile Fitness Unit through a grant from the Louisiana BlueCross BlueShield Foundation. Ross explained "Our aquatics staff will continue to provide swim lessons, water safety classes, water aerobics, life guard certifications, and AED/CPR certification classes. The Mobile Fitness Unit allows us to take our wellness programs directly into the community we serve, rather than having the community come to us." Mobile Fitness Unit Programs increase community access, and currently include After School PE, Home School PE, Group Exercise Classes and on site Corporate Wellness programs. The YMCA aquatics program will now become an extension of the YMCA's Healthy Living Mobile Fitness Unit.

Over the next 30 days the YMCA will work with the University of Louisiana at Monroe to ensure a smooth transition as it moves its Aquatics Program from the Oxford Natatorium, directly into communities through their Mobile Fitness Unit initiative. "We are very thankful to ULM for affording us the opportunity to reestablish the YMCA Aquatics Program in Monroe," said new YMCA Board Chair Allison Chapman. "While managing the Natatorium these past two years it reminded us of what's truly important. We enriched, and potentially saved the lives of 508 adults and youth by teaching life saving swim lessons. We made Ouachita Parish a little safer by certifying 42 new lifeguards, and certifying over 50 additional adults in AED, CPR and First Aid training through the American Safety & Health Institute." The YMCA offers certified lifeguard training in Ouachita Parish, and through ASHI has one of the few and most reasonably priced AED/CPR certification/recertification programs around."We're very proud of that," said Ross.

Ross concluded, "We are excited about taking our aquatics programs directly into neighborhoods and communities. This summer we'll continue to teach swim lessons and open water safety in both public and private pools, local bayous and rivers. We live in a community that's surrounded by water and our families need to know how to swim. The YMCA will continue to do just that…only mobile."

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