Petrolia Y membership drops 75 per cent during 30 weeks of COVID shutdowns

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Heather Wright/The Independent

Tracey Taylor says the Petrolia Y is facing the same problems as every other fitness centre in the province during the COVID-19 pandemic; they’ve been closed for more than half of the year and their revenues are plummeting.

Taylor is the Y’s general manager of the Petrolia fitness center and pool. Since 2017, the Y has run the programs for the municipality, getting paid a fee for the service.
The move was to reduce the deficit to run the complex which at the time was about $450,000 a year.

And it did improve for some time. The Y had more members than it expected in the first year – almost 850. And in 2019, the deficit was much lower, just under $200,000.
But the pandemic has changed all that.

In the 2021 budget, the town forecasts a deficit of over $433,000. And it is no wonder, Taylor says the building has been closed for 30 weeks in the last year, about 58 per cent of the centre’s normal operating year.

“It’s been a long haul for sure,” she tells The Independent.

“Our members certainly aren’t angry,” Taylor says. “The majority of them would love to see the YMCA be open and available for them to work out, to socialize and, you know, to get back to normal.

“When we have been open, the members who have been coming are very thankful to have the doors open.”

But Taylor says there is some hesitancy to return to the gym as well.

“There’s a lot of members as well, who just regardless of when we open our doors, they just aren’t ready to come back. And they’re just not feeling like, you know, until things are back to a relatively normal situation – whatever that might be – they’re just not ready to come back.”

Taylor says it may take some time to get the same number of people coming in to work out.

During the pandemic, about 75 per cent of the membership has let membership lapse.

“About 25 per cent of our members who haven’t put their membership on hold, when we reopen the doors, their membership payments start again, and they come back,” she says. The others will have to do the paper work to get back in the gym and that could take some time.

A few others are continuing to pay; a donation to their local gym.

Taylor couldn’t say exactly what that decline in membership translates into in dollars.
Rick Charlebois, CAO and Treasurer of Petrolia, says the town has been able to recoup some of the losses through federal and provincial funding – about $40,000 for 2020. There may be more cash coming for 2021.

With a budgeted projected deficit of over $433,000 it seems unlikely the municipality will be able to recoup it all and taxpayers may be left footing the bill.