Almost exactly eight months after ‘death knell’ sounded, Sarasota Y’s have been saved

March 25 real estate transaction secures new ownership of Euclid Avenue and Potter Park fitness facilities

This is the banner on the website homepage of Our Y. Image from the website

In late July 2019, tears flowed and frustrations flared as Sarasota Family YMCA members learned that financial difficulties were forcing the closure of the nonprofit organization’s two fitness centers in Sarasota.

Word spread rapidly about the six-figure salaries executive employees were making at the same time members were leaving to join other gyms.

Refusing to accept the news that the gyms would close for good at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, a group of long-time Y members decided to band together to try to Save the Y. In fact, they named their nascent organization to reflect their goal.

As the months passed, a sense of optimism spread among the supporters of keeping the Y’s open. People offered financial assistance, and members who had left in the wake of the initial bad news returned.

Eventually achieving 501(c)(3) status, the Save Our Y leaders persisted on a path to permanent ownership of the parcels where the Frank G. Berlin Sr. and Evalyn Sadlier Jones branches stand.

This week, the Save Our Y leaders took their final step, after securing a bank loan. They paid $4.4 million to the ownership group, which had transitioned from Sarasota Family YMCA to Safe Children Coalition, and took control of the real and personal property located at 1075 S. Euclid Ave. and 8301 Potter Park in Sarasota.

Sarasota County Property Appraiser Office records note that the Euclid Avenue property comprises 379,904 square feet, or about 8.7 acres. Last year, the market value of the land and structures was $8,170,900, the records show. Located within the city of Sarasota, that site is zoned Medical, Charitable, Institutional.

An aerial map shows the Y property at 1075 S. Euclid Ave. in Sarasota, outlined in red. Image courtesy Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst

The Potter Park property encompasses 207,826 square feet, or approximately 4.8 acres, the Property Appraiser’s Office records say. The market value of that land and structures last year was $6,326,400, the office’s records note. That parcel is zoned for residential multifamily homes.

This is the South Y property, located at 8301 Potter Park, outlined in red. Image courtesy Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst
An aerial map shows the proximity of the Potter Park property to U.S. 41. Image from Google Maps

“In consideration of the below-market purchase price,” the Save Our Y leaders wrote in a March 25 email blast, they had offered to let the Safe Children Coalition (SCC) operate its adolescent and youth services on the property at no charge for three years.

In a March 25 email blast, the leaders referred to the “grassroots community crusade” that enabled them to complete the real estate transaction. They also highlighted two major gifts that made the achievement possible: two $500,000 gifts, from Y members Jon and Libby Soderberg and an anonymous donor. Servisfirst Bank worked with them on the loan, they noted.

Additionally, in recognition of their success, the Save Our Y leaders eliminated the first word of their nonprofit’s name, making it henceforth “Our Y.”

“This is a triple win for all parties,” said Charlie Campbell, president of the board of directors of Our Y, in the email blast. “We are able to continue our 75 year old mission in Sarasota of promoting wellness for the youngest to the young at heart. SCC continues its very vital services for adolescents and youth at risk,” he continued. “And most especially, the Sarasota community wins. The public who have pledged over $1 million since September have demonstrated that passion coupled with vision is a very powerful force.”

Effective as of March 25, the name change, Campbell added, “affirms that the Y in Sarasota County now rests on a very firm foundation for its future endeavors. It also is a nod to our thousands of members who stuck with us, our very loyal employees, and the many volunteers who worked tirelessly over the past 6 months. It truly is Our Y.”

Even though the fitness centers are closed in accordance with the executive order Gov. Ron DeSantis issued on March 20, “[S]pace is being made available for child care services for health care workers,” the email blast noted.

Along with Campbell as chair, the board of directors of Our Y consists of Marc Schaefer, vice chair; Lucia Barrett; Ed Hoffman; Kathleen Kennedy; Lauren Kohl; and Libby Soderberg.