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YMCA suspends some operations at Carlson MetroCenter

The YMCA of Greater Rochester told its members in an e-mail that it's temporarily suspending members operations at the Carlson MetroCenter.
Jeremy Moule
The YMCA of Greater Rochester told its members in an e-mail that it's temporarily suspending members operations at the Carlson MetroCenter.

The YMCA of Greater Rochester is temporarily suspending membership operations at the Carlson MetroCenter in downtown Rochester due to financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization announced Tuesday in an e-mail to its members.

The Carlson Child Care Center and Y School of ROC will remain open, according to the e-mail.

The MetroCenter, 444 East Main St., would have been required to shut down its fitness facilities effective Wednesday because it is located within Monroe County’s COVID-19 “orange zone.”

But the e-mail to members explains that Y executives decided to shut down much of the MetroCenter’s operations to help preserve the organization’s finances. Since the facility reopened in October, following the state’s months-long COVID-19 shutdown, an average of 109 people a day use its facilities, according to the e-mail. More than half of the MetroCenter’s members use a different Y to work out and more than 40 percent of people who were members before the pandemic began are no longer members.

“This, coupled with the fact COVID-19 restrictions are keeping more members away and downtown Rochester still lacks activity, makes it financially unsustainable to remain open at this time,” read the e-mail.

The e-mail does not state under what conditions YMCA leaders would expect to reopen the Carlson MetroCenter, which features a pool, racquetball and squash courts, basketball courts, an indoor track, weight rooms, and exercise rooms. Ashley Doerzbacher, a spokesperson for the YMCA, said the organization wouldn’t comment beyond the statement sent to members.

In late July, YMCA executives announced that they’d be closing the Monroe Family YMCA on Monroe Avenue for similar reasons. George Romell, president of the YMCA of Greater Rochester, said at the time that severe financial setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic, combined with dwindling membership at the branch, made sustaining the Monroe Family YMCA unfeasible. Romell also said that the Victor Active Family Center was closing.

In recent years, the YMCA of Greater Rochester has built large facilities in the suburbs, most recently opening the 140,000 square foot Schottland Family YMCA in Pittsford.

County Legislator Rachel Barnhart, an avid swimmer, grew up going to the Maplewood YMCA and has been a member of the Carlson branch for more than a decade. In an e-mail to CITY, she said she’s “deeply disturbed that the Y will not commit to one day reopening the downtown branch,” adding that the pandemic will end and that closing the Carlson branch would be a major loss to the city.

“It sends a terrible message to build the Taj Mahal of Y’s in Pittsford while shuttering facilities in the city,” Barnhart wrote. “It is wrong to blame city branches for the consequences of the Y’s decades-long disinvestment in their future.”

The YMCA’s e-mail also informed its members that the Maplewood Family YMCA and the Southwest Family YMCA are closing temporarily because they are in the orange zone.

“This closure will lead to unknown consequences to how we are able to serve our members in the future,” states the e-mail. “We hope to reopen soon, to welcome our members back again.”

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at