Third-party could operate multi-gen center

By Tim Howsare

May 4, 2012 - 4:40 pm
Members of the Maricopa Youth Council gave input into the design of the city's multigenerational center. File photo.

The city could contract with a third-party operator such as the Valley of the Sun YMCA to run the city’s multigenerational and aquatics facility.

The Maricopa City Council gave staff direction Tuesday to explore the option. The facility is scheduled to open late next year.

Ron Chambless, senior vice president for operations of the Valley of the Sun YMCA, made a presentation to the council Tuesday. The Valley of the Sun YMCA operates nearly 20 facilities in the Phoenix metro area, Flagstaff and Yuma and is negotiating with the city of El Mirage to operate its multigenerational facility.

Vice Mayor Ed Farrell said, “A community partner could bring so much to the table that we can’t.”

Farrell said at first he favored the city operating the facility because there would be pride of ownership, but said pride can still be maintained if the center is overseen by a local board with members who live within the city.

Councilman Carl Diedrich also said the city would need to maintain ultimate control over the facility.

Councilwoman Julia Gusse said she represented the concerns of small business owners in Maricopa, such as yoga instructors, who could see the YMCA as competition for their business.

Chambless responded that YMCA branches are very inclusive of local health and fitness operators and hire locally. He said the YMCA could employ between 70 to 100 people in Maricopa.

Councilman Alan Marchione said he researched on his own and concluded a nonprofit community partner could bring expertise to Maricopa the city could not provide.

At the direction of the council, city staff will develop a request for proposals requiring organizations interested in running the facility be a nonprofit.

Local fitness instructor Johnny Calderon said Thursday the YMCA would be a good thing for the city.

Calderon said he works out at the Valley of the Sun’s branch in Tempe.

Calderon has been operating his business, Mighty Fists, from his house in Rancho El Dorado, but said lately has been thinking of moving to Tempe where he can find more work.

However, if the YMCA were to come to town, Calderon said he would consider staying if he could work for organization.

“I think it would be perfect fit for the city because it is family-based,” he said. “If they opened here I would love to be a part of the training staff.”

Ceylan Gentilella, owner and artistic director of Desert Sun Performing Arts, a dance school in the Maricopa Manor Business Center, said she does not see the YMCA as a threat to her business because she has her own clients.

“The more businesses of a like nature, the more it increases involvement,” she said.

Gentilella said she already partners with the city on summer programs and could potentially use space at the multigenerational center once it opens.

However, Brian Mullins, owner of Anytime Fitness on North John Wayne Parkway, said he does not support the city’s multigenerational center.

Mullins said he is surprised a city claiming to support small businesses is going to open a facility that could put some of those small businesses, like his own, in “dire straits.”

“They have deeper pockets and things that we won’t be able to offer,” he said. “I don’t see how this (the multigenerational center) could be a taxpayer priority in a down economy.”
 

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