Ymca Deal Still In Works

Negotiations for gym/pool complex enter the home stretch

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The Payson Town Council Thursday night ordered staff to continue final negotiations with the Valley of the Sun YMCA and Mayor Kenny Evans predicted the council will serve up a deal that has been cooking for years sometime in the next month.

The YMCA has proposed building a play pool, fitness facility, 6,500-square-foot gym and turning Taylor Pool into a heated, covered, year-round facility, if the town provides the land and the existing pool facility.

The YMCA would have to raise about $5.6 million to build the facility on town-owned land in Rumsey Park. The Marley Foundation in the Valley has already pledged $1 million toward the cost of building the facility. The YMCA would need to enlist 1,000 members paying $35 to $75 per month to make the facility work financially.

The town council met in a 90-minute executive session at the end of its regular meeting to confer with town attorneys on two issues -- including some of the legal fine points of the proposed agreement with the YMCA.

The key issues in the negotiations with the YMCA now revolve around how the town can best secure a reduced membership fee for town residents and how to ensure that the YMCA will operate its new facility in a way that will accommodate both existing town swim programs and existing town recreational programs.

The town currently spends about $160,000 annually to operate Taylor Pool during the summer months. The town has asked the YMCA to provide comparable open swim programs at minimal cost for town residents in the facility it would build on town-owned land. The YMCA has proposed that the town provide $95,000 in operating costs, which it would use to reduce the cost of a YMCA membership for Payson residents. The town council is reportedly exploring some way to use some of the entire savings to provide a subsidy for residents at any health club or fitness facility in town.

Mayor Kenny Evans said that the negotiations have shifted away from the town's effort to convince the YMCA to build a 10,000-square-foot gym and a 25-meter pool and instead have now focused on working out language that would ensure the town use of the facilities for existing swim and recreation programs.

Representatives of the YMCA who attended the long council session and waited through the 90-minute executive session to learn that the town will continue negotiations, expressed confidence that the town and the group will come to an agreement.

YMCA representatives noted that they believe they can renovate the existing Taylor Pool and use a covering of clear panels that will enable it to operate as a heated, enclosed pool in the winter. In the summer, the pool could be essentially converted to an open-air pool by removing the panels. They noted that Taylor Pool is 25 yards long, which means that it could also host a school swim program during the winter months.

Move over, YMCA representatives said that if they could raise an extra million dollars, they could perhaps build the larger gym the town's recreation director has said is essential to supporting existing leagues and sports programs.

The YMCA would also provide a fitness center, a rock climbing wall and a play pool with slides and water toys, all of which YMCA representatives said were crucial to attracting members.

The facility could make money with 1,000 members, which represents a penetration rate of about 8 percent, given Payson's population. Other YMCA facilities in rural areas have reported penetration rates of up to 30 or 40 percent.

Evans predicted that an agreement will come back to the council at one of its next two meetings, providing the town's negotiating team can iron out the final details about guaranteeing hours for the town's key recreation programs.

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