YMCA/JCC Holds Public Meeting Where Tempers Flare
Incorrect reporting, recap of events leading up to Oct. 6 discussion
Simply sylvania Ohio news

A local 13ABC news outlet is reporting incorrect facts about the public information session held at the Sylvania YMCA/JCC last night, further muddying the waters for Sylvania residents trying to decide how to vote on Issue 11 in November.

autumn 2021 sylvania news cover photo_edited.jpg
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In the news report out today, a 13ABC news anchor begins with the incorrect statement, "A heated exchange during an informational meeting tonight, turns out it was over a completely separate proposal, one involving taxpayer dollars." 

The YMCA and SAJRD expansions have been intricately related since 2018, and even more so since since the SAJRD expansion was placed on the ballot for this November, Issue 11.  The YMCA publicly announced last night's meeting was to discuss both SAJRD and YMCA expansion plans and a partnership between the two.  The YMCA Facebook event, still online, states in its description:  "Detail our capital expansion plan and answer questions about the feasibility of the YMCA/JCC partnering with SAJRD for a unified approach and shared facility." 

in the news report 13ABC anchor Diane Larson continues.

"Tonight's meeting was about expansion plans for the YMCA/JCC in Sylvania," Larson incorrectly states, omitting that the meeting was labeled, planned and publicly announced by the YMCA as a venue for discussing SAJRD.  "Tony Geftos is with us live in Sylvania tonight, and Tony what happened?"

"It came down to some differences of opinions over plans for a Sylvania Rec and community center, which has nothing to do with this YMCA,"   Geftos also incorrectly states, shaking his head and pointing to the YMCA sign before continuing with more factual errors.  "What was supposed to be an information meeting about plans for an expansion at the YMCA JCC in Sylvania, veered into arguments about something else."  


The camera shot then zooms in on Sylvania Township Trustee John Jennewine and SAJRD's Mike McMahon in a heated argument, before turning to a smiling Brad Toft, looking pleased as he faces the camera and says, "Unfortunately there were some disagreements tonight."

"Those disagreements were over a proposal for what would be called the Sylvania Multigenerational Community Center, in Cobblestone Woods Business Park,"  Geftos continues in his report.  "A request for voters to approve a 2.56 mill Capital Improvement Levy to fund construction will be on the ballot next month.  It also has nothing to do with the expansion plans for this YMCA off Sylvania Avenue, that includes doubling the square footage here, adding an indoor pool, and improving the wellness center, at a cost of 10-12 million dollars, money that would come from private donations.  The Y has already secured 5 million dollars."  

Again, the two expansions are related, from the SAJRD and YMCA partnering discussions of the last two years, to the YMCA's public efforts to crush SAJRD's expansion.  In addition, anonymous sources claiming to be knowledgeable of the YMCA expansion plans have now shared that they believe the YMCA's success depends on the failure of SAJRD's Issue 11, and that is what has motivated the YMCA's Brad Toft to publicly come out with statements, advertisements, and paid promotions that appear to be seeking to undermine SAJRD.

The 13ABC report goes on to interview Toft, who shares some brief positive talking points about the YMCA; Jennewine, who is against SAJRD's plan for a Multigenerational Community Center; and finally Marcus Zapata, owner of a Sylvania gym and an outspoken opponent of the SAJRD expansion.

"What happens with the Rec will be up to voters to decide," the 13ABC reporter continues.  "And what happens here, at the Y, will move forward no matter what.  The head of the Y says he expects to secure the rest of the funding by the end of this year."

It is unclear where the 13ABC reporters obtained their incorrect information about the meeting in Sylvania, and if they were invited to the meeting by those present.  The meeting was described in the YMCA's public announcement as an opportunity to discuss their own expansion plans along with a partnership between the YMCA and SAJRD, which directly affects the passage of Issue 11 next month. 


Support for the Multigenerational Community Center has been eroding since Toft began making public statements that undermine SAJRD in late August of this year. (see below)

A partnership between the two entities, the YMCA and SAJRD, was in discussion since 2018, however Sylvania Rec eventually declined when the YMCA's "non-negotiables" included handing over all management of programs and facilities to the YMCA, essentially ending the "locally run/managed" aspect of recreation for Sylvania families.  

see recap and additional resources below

Recap June-October 2021
jcc sept 22

On September 22, the YMCA/JCC posted the above graphic on social media.

"Taxpayers in the Cleveland area benefit from partnerships between cities and the YMCA -- something that could also happen in Sylvania."

-Sylvania YMCA and JCC

jcc toledo

On September 9, the YMCA/JCC announced a partnership with Toledo, with a post that called out Sylvania for a new partnership as well.

"The YMCA of Greater Toledo was proud to announce its partnership with the City of Toledo to build a new Wayman Palmer Branch.  

Today's announcement is just the latest example of YMCAs successfully collaborating with cities to great community benefit.  There are hundreds of other examples, including here in Ohio.  We believe the next example should be Sylvania, where the community also deserves a truly special facility.  We renew our commitment to collaborating in Sylvania. Any place. Any time."

-Sylvania YMCA and JCC

On August 30, 2021, the YMCA issued their first public statement that directly addressed SAJRD.  It came in the form of a video from YMCA of Greater Toledo President Brad Toft.  The video was in stark contrast to the YMCA's initial announcement of their Sylvania expansion plan back on July 19, 2021. 


In that July 19 press release and interview, the YMCA spokesperson was hesitant to discuss anything relating to the YMCA's relationship with SAJRD, and would only offer this one sentence about the matter:


"Discussions have taken place between the YMCA and Sylvania Recreation about how to work together in the best manner."

In the six weeks between July 19 and August 30, the Greater Toledo YMCA appears to have adopted a new strategy, one of publicly attacking SAJRD with shockingly blunt, undermining statements which appear to be an attempt to cause the levy to fail, and to also coerce SAJRD into complying with the YMCA's wishes. 

Below is the main text of Brad Toft's August 30 video, when the YMCA first took aim at Sylvania Recreation.


"We are disappointed that we are not working together on one unified community recreation facility here in Sylvania.

This would have saved the community money on both construction and operational subsidies moving forward.

We did try.  Our two organizations  spent two years trying to figure out how to make it happen.  They walked away and we feel that is a big loss and disappointment for the community.  

The YMCA is willing to bring significant assets to the table.  They included free land on property behind the existing YMCA JCC and ten million dollars in cash.  

Under Sylvania Rec's proposal, taxpayers will pay for the land and replace the ten million we would have invested and we think the location  would have been perfect.  Our property has woods, ponds, and plenty of space to be able to do all the things that our community deserves.  

We would have also brought our operational expertise to the facility in a fashion similar to other YMCAs and cities around the country, including here in Ohio. 

We believe it could have been done.  In fact, we still believe we can make that happen. Anytime, anyplace.  The YMCA has over 500 partnerships.  We know we can make it work.  In fact, we are still open to working with Sylvania Rec on this new facility anytime and any place."

A partnership between the two entities, the YMCA and SAJRD, was in discussion since 2018, however Sylvania Rec eventually declined when the YMCA's "non-negotiables" included handing over all management of programs and facilities to the YMCA, essentially ending the "locally run/managed" aspect of recreation for Sylvania families.  


Multiple individuals involved with the SAJRD expansion plan, which would also benefit Sylvania Arts and the Sylvania STEM Center, have shared, off the record, that they were stunned and blindsided by the public statements made by Brad Toft and the Greater Toledo YMCA since August, and they felt those public statements were a misrepresentation of what had occurred.


Most recently, the YMCA put out paid promotional advertising to further their efforts, a video through "Guy in the 419," which began running on social media October 4, 2021.


The Sylvania Area Joint Recreation District (SAJRD) has information online detailing their expansion plans and the levy they are asking voters to approve at the ballot box this November:  www.playsylvania.com/sajrd-levy-details

SAJRD and Sylvania Recreation officials declined to comment on the YMCA's activities of the last month, though they did acknowledge that they were not informed of the October 6 information session, labeled by the YMCA as a discussion of the YMCA-SAJRD partnership, before it was made public.

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Additional Resources:

Further reading:

Stem Center Aligns with Sylvania Recreation,  Sylvania Arts 

YMCA announces $10 Million Sylvania YMCA/JCC Facility Expansion

The Blade 10/3/21 article "Partnership talks break down..." by Kate Snyder.

Letter to the Editor; In favor of the Multi-generational community center


YMCA/JCC Holds Public Meeting Where Tempers Flare


Sylvania area citizens opposing issue 11 "Vote No" official website:

Town Hall on Oct. 18th for Issue #11 - Imagine, Create, PlaySylvania!



The Committee for Sylvania Recreation Issue 11 "Vote Yes" official website:


Visit the YMCA official website:


Follow the Sylvania JCC/YMCA on Facebook:


Visit Sylvania Rec's official website for the Sylvania Area Joint Recreation District (SAJRD) expansion plan:


View the full Sylvania Rec Master Plan

Click to view full SAJRD document

View the summary of the Sylvania Rec Master Plan for expansion:

Click to view SAJRD document