YMCA names CEO, finishes renovations
Frank Walker has been a member of the Lawton Family YMCA for 35 years. And on May 1, he officially became it's newest CEO.
Walker is a lifetime resident of Lawton. For the last 20 years he has been working in the construction business. Before that, he served as Comanche County Commissioner for 10 years, and City Councilman for five.
His new position with the Lawton Family YMCA all came down to timing.
"I was working for a corporation and it was looking like I was probably going to have to move to Texas. I've lived here my whole life. When this position came open I thought that, well, it would be a pretty good challenge," Walker said. "The economy here in Lawton is not in the best shape. So we do have some challenges here, with our budget, and we are addressing those."
Walker's short-term goal is financial stabilization. He hopes to match expenses to incoming revenue. As for the long term, he hopes to increase membership.
"In the old days, 30 years ago, there wasn't a lot of competition for fitness centers in Lawton. Now there are a bunch of them," Walker said. "We have to be innovative. We're not just a fitness center. We want people to realize that we are a community center."
Walker stressed that the YMCA seeks to serve the community through a variety of programs and events not all of them dollar driven.
"We are going to be pushing for more members every month," Walker said.
Last year, the YMCA lost around 300 members. According to Walker, they have around 2,000 memberships which includes individual and families.
"We are only in one location, and if somebody on the west side of town is looking for a fitness facility they aren't going to drive all the way over here. But we are so much more than just machines and weights. We have a daycare here for our members. We have a first class swimming facility too. All of our classes are included in the price as well."
About three years before Walker's arrival, the YMCA began the $3.5 million dollar process of renovating the building. A process that finished shortly before he took over as CEO.
"The building outside is beautiful now," Walker said. "Then you come inside and now it is remodeled.This is the best that this facility has looked since I've been a member. ... I think the YMCA is an integral part of downtown Lawton. I want it to still be here in 20 or 30 years after I'm way gone."
The renovations include the gymnasium, the spa area, the sprinkler system, all four locker rooms, the family and special needs dressing room, a partial roof and three AC units.
The largest portion of the renovations was funded through grants and community donations, leaving only $500,000 for the YMCA to cover.