The city of Huber Heights appears on track to renew its agreement with the YMCA to manage The Kroger Aquatic Center at The Heights, although there has been interest from a local company that wants a shot at operating the venue.
The city’s three-year management contract with the YMCA expired at the end of 2014, and all indications have been that the two sides were going to agree to another deal. Huber Heights City Council signed off last month on moving forward with negotiations.
But as the aquatic center prepares for its fourth season of operation, Jeff Blume, president of Dayton Pool Management, expressed interest in managing the aquatic center at last week’s Public Works Committee meeting.
City Manager Rob Schommer said the city is exclusively talking with the YMCA, based on council’s direction when it unanimously agreed on Dec. 8 to enter into a letter of intent with the YMCA to negotiate.
The city hopes to finalize a deal in February, he said. Schommer said a three-year agreement, at a minimum, would be appropriate, but a five-year deal has been explored to mirror Kroger’s naming rights sponsorship.
“Our goal is to finalize an agreement, present it to council and have them decide if it’s acceptable for the 2015 season,” Schommer said.
Blume submitted a proposal to the city on Tuesday, with a contract cost of $336,575 for the 2015 pool season. He did not return messages seeking comment.
Dayton Pool Management has operated the Tippecanoe Family Aquatic Center ever since it opened in 2005.
“It’s better for the community and the city to see multiple offers,” Huber Heights Mayor Tom McMasters said. “Obviously, we’re looking to get someone under contract in relatively short order.”
Councilman Mark Campbell said he believes the city did not seek bids prior to the aquatic center opening in 2012. He said that decision was based on the YMCA’s aquatic expertise, the proximity of the water park to the YMCA and the city’s partnership with the YMCA.
“It made sense to reach out to them and see if they would help us in the managing of the pool,” Campbell said.
From 2012 to 2014, Huber Heights paid the YMCA of Greater Dayton a total of $717,736, according to a public information request made by this newspaper. The majority of the expenses — $450,000 — was paid to the YMCA to serve as the city’s Parks & Recreation department.
A total of $261,736 was paid to the YMCA for aquatic center expenses — annual fees, 2013 and 2014 operating expense deficits, and operating expense advances. Another $6,000 was donated to the Strong Kids Campaign.
Dale Brunner, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Dayton, said a proposal has been submitted that includes a slight increase in the annual management fee. It was $15,000 per year in the original contract.
“The Y always hopes to be a good partner,” Brunner said. “We would think this would be a good opportunity for the city and Y to continue that partnership in the community.”
Campbell said the YMCA’s experience as the city’s parks department and running the aquatic center gives the organization a “leg up simply because we have a history working with them.”
“They’re very qualified to manage our pool,” Campbell said.
Combined over the first three years, Huber Heights generated a net profit of $74,416 from the aquatic center, which is located at 8625 Brandt Pike. The city’s aquatic center expenses for each year were $425,792 (2012), $369,740 (2013) and $388,834 (2014).
The cool summer weather the last two years led to a decrease in attendance and revenue. During the 2014 season, an aquatic center-low 28,351 people visited the facility, while the city suffered a net loss of $63,719.
“Anytime you have warm weather, you’re going to be just fine in the outdoor pool arena,” Brunner said. “We had one summer that was really warm and two summers that struggled. Other than that, I thought the arrangement was just another extension of our collaboration with the city.”
Last month, Tipp City Council approved 5-2 a one-year extension with Dayton Pool Management for 2015, but also heard calls for city staff to explore options for future years.
The company will be paid $291,545 to operate the facility during an 84-day season.
Attendance at the Tippecanoe Family Aquatic Center in 2014 was 24,077, down from 27,939 in 2013. The city subsidy for the water park from the general fund in 2014 was $105,859, the largest amount in the past decade.
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