The YMCA won’t be running Greenwood’s new aquatic center when it opens next year and won’t be bringing a facility with an indoor pool and gym to the city for at least three years, if at all.
Last year, the city announced plans to have the YMCA run the city’s new pool park, which will feature water slides, a lap pool, leisure pool and lazy river. The center would be located next to a YMCA facility with an indoor pool, exercise room and gym, all in Freedom Park, on the city’s southwest side.
But since then, plans for the new YMCA facility haven’t moved forward, and YMCA officials questioned the city’s plans for the aquatic center, including its size. Recently, YMCA officials told Mayor Mark Myers they wouldn’t build in Greenwood for three to five years, while focusing on their Indianapolis projects first, and were making no commitment to build in Greenwood at all.
About six weeks ago, city officials decided to look at another company’s proposal to manage the pool.
By hiring a Florida-based division of Counsilman-Hunsaker to work alongside city employees to train lifeguards and concessions workers, develop hiring and safety processes, and manage the aquatic center, the city could save money long term, officials said.
The agreement would allow existing city staff, such as parks and recreation director Rob Taggart, to learn how to operate the aquatic center and then take over managing it at the end of the contract with Counsilman-Hunsaker, if the city chooses, city controller Adam Stone said.
The city has agreed on a three-year contract with the company, with a goal of having the city take over management after that, and possibly keeping the manager Counsilman-Hunsaker hired, Myers said.
Counsilman-Hunsaker also studied the projected attendance, operating expenses and income for the aquatic center, and estimated it would earn at minimum $200,000 less from memberships and day passes than is required to operate the pool.
A management company is needed because parks department employees haven’t managed pool facilities as big and complicated as the planned aquatic center, he said.
“They don’t feel comfortable handling it. It’s much bigger than what they’ve ever done, and we want to do right it the first time,” Myers said.
The city park board agreed to pay the company $75,000 the first year to prepare the aquatic center for opening by hiring and training employees, marketing the pool and preparing manuals, which will provide standard safety procedures and other written rules for employees to follow.
All of the aquatic center workers, including lifeguards and concession stand workers, will be city employees except for the manager, who will be a Counsilman-Hunsaker worker. The company also will be paid about $126,000 total for a three-year management contract and would earn more money if it finds business sponsors to help pay for the aquatic center’s operating costs.
The mayor wants to find businesses that will pay to put their names on features such as slides, a leisure pool and the concession stand to help cover $200,000 in aquatic center expenses that fees and memberships aren’t expected to cover. The goal was to avoid using tax dollars to pay for annual expenses, officials said.
Counsilman-Hunsaker would be able to recruit national companies to sponsor the aquatic center to complement the city’s efforts to find local businesses willing to pay to put their names on slides or other features, Taggart said.
The company came to the city about eight weeks ago and offered to open and manage the pool park, so officials negotiated with the YMCA and Counsilman-Hunsaker to find the best deal, Myers said.
The YMCA was willing to manage the pool park but not develop specialized safety plans and job descriptions and do other start-up tasks, Myers said. The YMCA would bring in training and safety manuals that are specific to their organization, and all of the employees would be YMCA workers. If the city hired the YMCA and the organization chose not to renew its contract, then Greenwood could lose all the employees and written operating procedures, he said.
The city will pay Counsilman-Hunsaker to create the staff organization structure, do marketing for the pool park, train the staff and develop programs to open the park.
The city hadn’t agreed on a contract with the YMCA, but under recent negotiations, the city would have paid $45,000 per year for the organization to manage the aquatic center, Stone said. Counsilman-Hunsaker will also set the city up to take over management and charge less over the three years, he said. Counsilman-Hunsaker is charging $126,000 for managing services for three years, versus the YMCA’s $135,000 cost. Counsilman-Hunsaker also will earn more money as the aquatic center’s income increases, getting 5 percent of gross revenue exceeding $435,000 in 2015.
Counsilman-Hunsaker will start work immediately, preparing job descriptions, safety procedures and policy manuals and developing plans to market the aquatic center, Taggart said.
Construction of the aquatic center started in June, and most of it will be completed by the end of November. The facility is scheduled to open next May.