Bettendorf and YMCA leaders are talking about the possibility of the Y taking over the Life Fitness Center in exchange for money for a new municipal pool.
City Administrator Decker Ploehn said Thursday the parties were “in conversation” about the Y’s acquisition of the city-owned recreation center at 2222 Middle Road. However, members of the Friends of the Bettendorf Parks Foundation said they were told: “It’s a done deal.”
In exchange for the Life Fitness Center, the Y would give the city a yet-to-be-determined amount of money for a new water park to replace Splash Landing, Ploehn said.
The YMCA spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
The city plans to hire a company within about a month to design the water park, he said. Although it currently only exists as a concept, early cost estimates put it at $18 million.
“We have substantial funds to put into a pool, but that’s way off the estimate,” Ploehn said. “We have $6 million of unallocated ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds, and there may be other funds from other sources. There may also be grant sources.”
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The city has also earmarked about $3 million for the pool project. With the money from ARPA and the money already budgeted, the estimated shortfall would be around $9 million, but Ploehn said he was not yet ready to say how much the YMCA would be willing to pay. to contribute.
He said the Life Fitness Center is currently valued at $1.4 million.
In addition to objecting to the estimated value of the property, longtime president of the Friends of Bettendorf Parks Foundation, Matt Mooney, said he and other members of the group were frustrated by the lack of transparency of the city officials in developing facility plans.
“If it’s such a good deal, why isn’t the city council shouting about it?” Mooney asked Thursday. “If it’s so great, why not shout it from the rooftops?”
He also worries about how the children would be affected by the loss of the Life Fitness Center.
“Our mission is to help children who cannot afford recreation programs,” Mooney said. “Kids who can’t afford our programs can’t afford Y programs.
“The new pool will be owned by Bettendorf, but the Y will manage it. They want to move their tumbling and gymnastics programs to the Life Fitness Center.
“We were told our children could go to the downtown community center, which has now been closed and vacant for two years.”
Ploehn said city council members have made it clear they don’t want to continue paying Life Fitness Center’s operating losses, which are expected to top $300,000 this year. He said a growing number of “boutique fitness centers” and YMCA locations are making it increasingly difficult to maintain the city-owned center.
He also acknowledged that a seasonal pool will not bring in any money. Splash Landing Aquatic Center loses about $175,000 a year, Ploehn said. Asked if servicing debt on an estimated $18 million facility would add to the burden, he said the city plans to find enough money to pay it outright.
“Is the city just there to serve the Y?” Mooney asked. “I don’t hit the Y, and I don’t hit the pool. The city should have a pool.
“But the parks don’t make money. They serve a purpose. We heard Life Fitness Center shouldn’t compete with private companies, but the city is investing millions in the golf course.”
For Becky Alberson, a longtime member of the Friends of Bettendorf Parks Foundation board of directors and a parks department retiree, the loss of the Life Fitness Center would mean the loss of valuable space.
It’s used to store countless recreational supplies and as weather shelter for children in summer programs, among other things, she said.
“Our goal was to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Bettendorf,” Alberson said. “If we’re a top city, we should have top-notch programming. It’s almost like they’re trying to get rid of the recreation department.”
For Tim Conrad, treasurer of the Friends of Bettendorf Parks Foundation, the city should explain how the Life Fitness Center is more of a liability than any other facility in the city.
“They said they don’t want to work in the fitness field, but they take care of the museum, the library, the golf course; none of that makes money either,” a- he declared. “None of our equipment is profitable.
“The Fit (fitness center) fills a lot of roles that people aren’t aware of.”
Before reaching an agreement with the YMCA, members of the Friends Foundation said the city should find a way to retain access to at least parts of the building, including the only remaining indoor tennis courts in the Quad- Cities of Iowa.
“One of the most important things we do is fundraise for families who don’t have enough for certain programs,” Alberson said. “With a new pool, the cost of access is sure to increase. And the pool is something that is only available a few months out of the year.”
The city and the Y haven’t officially opened negotiations, Ploehn said, but the design for the new water park is expected to be complete by the fall. The city spent a considerable amount of money on a recreation study several years ago, and the possible transfer of the Life Fitness Center is one result.
“We are working with the Y, and we may have a solution,” he said.
Photos: 2nd Annual Mother-Son Fun Night at Life Fitness Center
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