01/29/09 — Consultant: Rec Center fee $100

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Consultant: Rec Center fee $100

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on January 29, 2009 1:46 PM

If the Goldsboro City Council decides to move forward with its current plans to build the Community Recreation Center, membership fees could reach $100 a month for families and $60 a month for single adults.

That's just one of the suggestions from the Sports Facilities Advisory, a consulting firm the city hired to estimate operating costs of the proposed facility.

Goldsboro's Recreation Center Committee met over a 45-minute conference call Wednesday with SFA representatives to discuss the draft of a report that detailed potential costs for operating the center.

Many of the members, including Goldsboro Family YMCA director John Richards, came away concerned about the proposed rate structure.

"Those fees are extremely high based on the rates we currently charge," he said.

SFA representatives told the group the membership fees were based on what similar facilities were charging, but committee members didn't believe that Goldsboro and Wayne County residents would pay that kind of money for a fitness facility.

City officials also expressed concerns about the facilty's projected revenues and expenditures.

In its draft report, SFA estimated that the center will cost the city between $2.14 million and $2.64 million to operate in its first year, and that the amount would continue to increase annually after that.

SFA projected costs for two types of centers in the draft report -- a baseline, or bare-minimum facility, and an optimized, or more interactive and efficient facility with a high-level of programming.

In the center's first year of operation, SFA expected baseline expenses to total $2.14 million and revenues to be around $1.78 million.

Optimized facility expenses are expected to total $2.64 million with revenues expected to come in at $2.55 million.

City officials, however, found even the baseline expenditures to be too high, and they questioned whether the facility could meet those revenue projections.

"I'm not sure how realistic we are with achieving these revenues," City Manager Joe Huffman told SFA representatives over the phone. "If we are going to do this, we need for this to happen if we say it will. I believe it could work, in certain economic times, and with certain levels of income. But with the economy the way it is and the different income levels in different regions, we want to make sure you're right."

"Personally, I think the revenues and expenses are high," said Chuck Allen, Recreation Center Committee chairman and mayor pro-tem.

He expressed concern about the membership fees, especially in light of the city's plan to use U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development money for the construction of the facility.

Such money must be used for a facility that serves a good portion of the low- to moderate-income population in the city -- residents whom Allen doesn't believe will be able to pay the membership fees.

"There is a lot of HUD money going into this thing, and there are going to be a lot of scholarships that we need to give out," he said.

And he added that he believed those scholarships, which would eliminate or discount the membership fees, will cut into the SFA's projected revenues more than the firm's representatives estimate they will.

Still, SFA representatives said they feel very comfortable with their recommendations for the optimized facility's revenues after looking at similar facilities in the area and around the nation, and after considering that 50 percent of the population will likely receive financial assistance with the memberships.

But there were other concerns, too.

Even though SFA said the area's population could support both the YMCA and a new facility, Richards wasn't so sure.

The report stated that, in a 20-mile radius, there was enough of a population to support both facilities, although SFA representatives also said they could explore the possibility of a joint membership between the two facilities.

The final draft of the report is expected to be complete by the end of February.

The Goldsboro City Council, however, has put construction of the Community Recreation Center on hold due to the current financial climate.

The report and a timeline for the facility are expected to discussed in more detail at the council's retreat in the middle of February.