LOCKPORT – The Lockport Family YMCA may merge with the Buffalo Niagara YMCA in 2016 – if money is raised for a new Lockport YMCA building and a buyer is found for the old one.
Buddy Campbell, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara YMCA, and Mark W. Albiez, executive director of the Lockport YMCA, confirmed the arrangement Friday.
The organizations signed a two-year management agreement that took effect Feb. 1 and made Campbell in effect the boss of the Lockport Y.
“I am their CEO at this point,” Campbell said. “It’s running like a branch of the Buffalo Niagara YMCA.”
However, the Lockport organization continues to have considerable autonomy. “I still run the Lockport Family YMCA. We still have the same employees, we still offer the same programs,” Albiez said.
“We haven’t merged. We haven’t agreed to merge,” Campbell said. “For two years, we’ve been having conversations.” Albiez said, “We’re close enough that we decided to sign the management agreement.”
Campbell said the boards of the two YMCAs have agreed on the conditions for a merger to take effect after the management agreement expires.
Those are to complete the YMCA’s move to Snyder Drive in the Town of Lockport, first announced in 2006, and not to leave an empty building behind on East Avenue in the City of Lockport. That’s where the YMCA has been since 1926.
Campbell said the Snyder Drive project, first announced at $10 million and later bumped up to $11.5 million, needs to be “sustainable.” That means smaller than the 70,000-square-foot 2006 plan.
“The cost of construction has gone up. We hired a consultant who’s working with us on a redesign,” Campbell said.
Daxko T2 Consulting of Birmingham, Ala., a firm that has helped in the construction of more than 200 new YMCAs around the country in recent years, is working on a new plan for Lockport, to replace the 2006 drawings.
Albiez said the plan may be unveiled during June. He said the plan will keep the two swimming pools and the indoor track that were selling points of the 2006 design.
“The sacrifices will be in the size of the gym,” Albiez said. Originally, the new Lockport Y was to have three gyms; the new plan will have a single large gym that can be divided in half. Also, the aquatic center’s footprint will be smaller, although the two pools will remain, Albiez said.
The cost of the project hasn’t been determined, but the Lockport YMCA still wants to raise $11.5 million. Albiez said the Y had $6.2 million in pledges and was committing $2 million to $2.5 million from its own endowment when the stock market tanked in the fall of 2008.
The market has bounced back to record highs, and Albiez said, “We have recovered our endowment. That’s why we rekindled this now.”
Campbell said Buffalo Niagara YMCA staffers and volunteers are helping with the fund-raising.
In the meantime, Campbell said a buyer must be found for the East Avenue site. “It isn’t something we would want to take on. It’s not (handicapped) accessible. It’s an old building,” he said.
Worries about downtown Lockport being left with an empty 30,000-square-foot building led then-Mayor Michael W. Tucker and prominent downtown property owner David L. Ulrich to oppose the YMCA’s plan when it was first unveiled. The Y said at the time it intended to keep the city site open, but that is no longer the case.