Updated with 2015-16 numbers, which are bleak.
Membership numbers at the Arnold Rec Center have dropped by almost 50% since 2011, according to numbers from the city published in the August 13 city council packet (page 2). Membership numbers are as follows:
- 2011 – 3,360
- 2012 – 1,900
- 2013 – 1,881
- 2014 – 1,758
Arnold blames the arrival of private fitness centers in town for this decline. These include 24 Hour Fitness, Club Fitness, Xist Fitness, and Contours Express. While the lowest cost membership at the rec center for an individual adult (Arnold resident) is $20.91 per month (12-month membership), you can join the private clubs for as low as ten bucks (ten bucks, ten bucks, Club Fitness!). Granted, if you join the rec center under a family plan, you get a lower price, and the rec center does have a pool and basketball court, unlike the private clubs. While the membership fees at the private clubs seem pretty stable, this chart shows you how rec center fees have changed since it opened 10 years ago (annual cost). R means resident and NR means non-resident.
Interesting that residents costs have increased more than those for non-residents. The private clubs also generally offer longer hours than the rec center.
In the Red
The financial status of the rec center has been a topic for debate over the years. In 2012, the Leader reported that the rec center had accumulated a $1.6 million operating deficit since it opened in 2005. Some, like former councilwoman Michelle Hohmeier, have argued that it should be self-supporting, while Mayor Ron Counts has said he would like it to pay for itself, but it’s not a huge deal; others like councilman Phil Amato don’t care, though, because he says it is an asset to the community that supposedly increases home values. Of course, this value is diluted by the arrival of the private facilities. Note that the city also collects a 1/4-cent sales tax to cover the $16 million bond debt incurred to build the rec center.
Here are recent annual operating deficits at the rec center, derived from city budget documents. Deficits
are down since 2010 trended down until 2013.
- 2010: -$276,763
- 2011: -$203,811
- 2012: -$236,383 (-$1,288,084 including one-time costs from debt refinancing)
- 2013: -$125,408
- 2014: -$144,285
- 2015 (estimated): -$432,667 (original budgeted deficit was $194,887)
- 2016 (budgeted): -$29,680 (includes a $108,500 infusion of sewer sale proceeds and $336,711 from general fund)
Here are revenue numbers for the rec center; the first number each year is from memberships and second is overall revenue. A noticeable effect on revenues began in 2013, when both numbers declines from the previous year. Sales tax receipts
have increased during this time increased until 2013, then declined.
- 2010: $568,786; $2,375,987
- 2011: $580,783; $2,454,709
- 2012: $607,835; $2,538,094 (not including bond refinance proceeds)
- 2013: $562,030; $2,459,929
- 2014: $509,181; $2,505,392 – latter number not including $1,859,521 transferred in from general fund
- 2015: $403,000; $2,399,246 (estimated) – original budgeted amounts were $575,000 and $2,566,000
- 2016: $445,000; $2,519,492 (budgeted) – latter number not including sewer and general fund transfers in
This would seem to be a prime example of the Yellow Pages test; if a service is found in the Yellow Pages, it needn’t be supplied by government. But we can be sure the Arnold Rec Center isn’t going anywhere, both because local politicos love it and because that debt has to be paid off. Maybe there’s some national corporation that can come in and buy the rec center. Despite recent declines in the annual deficit, the decline in memberships does not bode well for the hopes of profitability at the rec center. The private gyms offer flexibility: bare bones memberships for those who want to work out for cheap and amenities like tanning and 24-hour access for those who are willing to pay more. The rec center is a one size fits all facility.
In light of the membership declines, Arnold is offering a deal during the last week of August: join the rec center for 2005 prices ($14.58 per month for an individual resident adult):