The city council voted Monday to move ahead with a request for proposal soliciting a third party to run the $16.2 million multigenerational and aquatic center, which is schedule to open next year at John Wayne Parkway and Bowlin Road.
The decision was made during a special meeting.
The council agreed that when reviewing submitted proposals, preference would be given to nonprofit organizations.
Regardless of the type of entity chosen to the run the facility, it will be strongly encouraged to work with local businesses and groups when developing programs.
Council members did say the city’s name should be in the forefront of marketing and branding efforts, including having its name on the building, a conclusion that drew applause.
A third party’s presence would, however, still be integrated into some marketing materials.
About 60 residents attended the meeting to add their input on whether the multigenerational center and aquatic facility should be run by a third party and, if so, just how involved it should be.
The city will retain oversight of any third party by having final approval of decisions.
The special meeting resulted from a September city council meeting at which the council disagreed on the general guidelines for the request for proposal that would solicit interested third parties.
Monday’s meeting was scheduled to hash out the details, which included who would provide equipment, pay for utilities, handle complaints, staff the front desk and other operations.
After City Manager Brenda Fischer gave a presentation explaining the bureaucratic and administrative process for building the $16.2 million facility the public was invited to comment.
Chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community Louis J. Manuel Jr. asked that the Ak-Chin be part of the process because the city and the Indian community are so intertwined.
Some small-business owners were concerned about the competition.
Lee Feiles, owner of Karate for Kids, said if a third party ran the center he would be forced to compete against the city since a third-party operator might be able to offer karate classes at a lower price.
The third party would be able to use the multigenerational center at a cost that he, having to pay rent, could not compete with, Feiles said.
“If these services are going to be offered by the city, then it’s going to put additional stress on us, and I don’t think that’s really necessary,” Feiles said.
Marty McDonald advocated the city’s community services department running the center.
“You have good people who are fully capable of running (the facility),” McDonald said.However, he said if the city did partner with a third party, “The city has to be the driver on this process,” and should maintain control over key aspects such as program costs.
Ron Chambless, senior vice president for operations of the Valley of the Sun YMCA, which has shown interest in running the center, reiterated his organization would use “the community model” if it were selected as a partner.
He said the YMCA would work with local recreational providers and look to them to be involved in programs offered at the multigenerational center.
Once the request for proposal is finalized, it will be advertised. Proposals will be accepted for two weeks and the contract will be awarded at a city council meeting.