With plan in place, local YMCA emerges from bankruptcy

North Central Florida YMCA CEO John A. Bonacci III, shown in this March 29, 2013 file photo, says the nonprofit organization has emerged from bankruptcy.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 4:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 4:12 p.m.

The North Central Florida YMCA has emerged from bankruptcy after putting in place all requirements of its five-year Chapter 11 reorganization plan, the organization announced Thursday.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court closed the case Sept. 27 and the local “Y” no longer has to report to a court-appointed trustee.

“As long as we abide by the contracted terms of the plan, then we’re good,” said CEO John Bonacci, who was hired by the board in July 2012 to turn the YMCA around.

Membership is at a six-year high and all five departments have positive cash flow, Bonacci said in a news release.

In an interview, he credited the management team that he put in place — many of whom he says took pay cuts — with enhancing existing programs and adding new programs.

Some of the changes include turning the gymnastics program into a performing arts department by adding dance and color guard; adding new sports and more seasons; new wellness programs such as a 90-day weight-loss challenge, personal trainers and massage therapy; partnering with New Day Wellness to offer physical therapy and a new “tai chi for better balance” class; and adding sports and arts specialty camps to the child-care program. The “Y” has also increased scholarships to children by 46 percent to 51 children.

“We’ve all put our blood, sweat and tears into this place,” Bonacci said. “We all circled the wagons when the need arose and we are definitely celebrating this as a victory and looking forward to many more to come.”

The organization filed for bankruptcy in November 2011 after defaulting on loans taken out starting in 2006 as part of expansion plans. Memberships and donations declined during the recession, leaving four out of five facilities operating at a loss, while the real estate collapse left the organization underwater on its loans, owing more than the properties were worth. The “Y” has since closed facilities in northeast Gainesville, Starke and Crescent City.

As part of the reorganization plan, Wells Fargo agreed to modify $3.6 million worth of loans, the YMCA put plans in motion to operate profitably and the YMCA of the USA accepted lower fees.

Bonacci said there is still plenty of work to be done, such as overcoming five years of facilities neglect. The organization has received $29,000 in donations for the year and is asking for more to replace the roof, buy school buses, fund scholarships for at-risk youths and resurface the pool, among other needs.

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