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Taxes, Charity and the Downtown YMCA

July 05, 1986

In the article on the soon-to-open Stuart M. Ketchum Downtown YMCA and the objections of the Assn. of Tax-Paying Fitness and Sports Clubs to the facility's tax-exempt status, Frank Hathaway (chairman of the Los Angeles Athletic Club) asserts that "the new Ys don't seem to have much charity in them." ("Health Clubs, Downtown's New YMCA Go to the Mat," View, June 24). The article goes on to say the Los Angeles health clubs claim that "the Y no longer serves the poor but has become a government-subsidized competitor for the fitness dollars of the affluent."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is true, as your article points out, that the new Downtown YMCA will provide members the finest in fitness and wellness equipment. This should not seem out of character for the Downtown YMCA as its predecessor facility, which was torn down in 1969, served the fitness needs of the downtown community for more than 60 years.

What the private health club operators fail to understand is that the new Downtown YMCA will provide an array of activities and outreach programs not targeted at business people but designed specifically for youth, senior citizens and economically less advantaged in Central Los Angeles. In fact, 50% of the Downtown YMCA's program will be dedicated to youth aquatics, child care, camping, sports and youth outreach for the downtown's more than 23,000 youth, such activities as swimming for arthritis-stricken seniors and multilingual "Senior Help Lines" for the 27,000 aged people living downtown, facilities for the handicapped and single-parent family and public affairs programs, to name a few.

Can any for-profit health club in Los Angeles say it provides the same scope of services and outreach programs to the community?

What's more, can the for-profit health clubs in Los Angeles claim that surplus revenues will go to subsidizing facilities in economically disadvantaged areas of town, like the new East Los Angeles YMCA branch and the $7-million Weingart Urban Center YMCA in South-Central Los Angeles, or that they won't turn anyone away from their facilities because of inability to pay?

The Stuart M. Ketchum-Downtown YMCA can.

With the completion of the Stuart M. Ketchum-Downtown YMCA, the Y will continue to fulfill its commitment to nurturing the bodies, minds and spirits of the entire community.

JAMES A COLLINS, Chairman

YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles

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