As progress on the physical construction of the Berthoud recreation center and associated amenities at Waggener Farm Park continues daily, another major step was take this week when the town hired a manager to oversee all recreation activities in town, including serving in the capacity of the general manager or executive director of the rec center itself.
As reported by the Surveyor last November, the town was debating between hiring an outside management firm to oversee the daily operation of the rec center or directly hiring a manager who would be a full-time town employee and tasking said individual with building the rec center staff. The town opted for the latter route.
The town did consult with an outside firm regarding operating the rec center and ran various financial models looking at both options. After a thorough analysis and much discussion among town staff, the decision to made to hire the in-house manager rather than use an outside management company.
“We felt like went through a variety of different exercises with them it was going to be a better deal for the town to operate it itself. Not just financially, I think we can be competitive with the proposal they put together, but also just having a little higher level of control of the facility and then also having people that are invested here, that are town employees, that are here to support and serve the town,” Town Administrator Chris Kirk said on Monday. “Even though I think this management company would have done a fantastic job, we have no issues with them, but we just felt like we would be better off if we move forward internally.”
Kirk explained that the financials of both routes the town considered ended up being very similar in the end. The outside firm would have had lower overhead and burden costs as their pay and benefits package is not as good as the town’s but said firm also charges a management fee, making the end result a net neutral.
“We felt like with that added layer, that management fee, it basically takes up the savings that we would get by paying them to run the facility so it ends up being about the same cost,” Kirk said. “The difference is that it would have been easier from a management perspective, pretty hands off for us, but we didn’t feel that was a good enough reason to not move forward with our own team.”
While Kirk said it was not the deciding factor, but the controversy surrounding the rec center project was considered when deciding to go the in-house route. Said Kirk, “We didn’t want the community to feel like we were farming out what has been a controversial but also really wanted amenity, this needs to be a local, home-grown, exceptionally run facility and we felt there would be some disconnect there if it was a private operator.”
Furthermore, the outside firm would have requested what Kirk called a “more aggressive financial approach” which would have resulted in higher use and membership fees. “We don’t want to operate like Golds Gym or 24-Hour Fitness, not to say those aren’t good business models, but as a community rec center we have a different priority, we’re not profit-driven,” Kirk said.
While a final decision has not yet been made, Kirk said that current estimates for monthly family membership will be neighborhood of $70, individual monthly membership in the mid-$30 range and discounts for youth and seniors that bring the cost to somewhere around $25 to $30 per month. Kirk said the final decision on pricing will be made based upon how many memberships they predict being sold as well as how much the town decides to subsidize the facility.
Final details of the just-hired manager’s contract with the town were not available by deadline but Kirk explained the search process, led by Deputy Town Administrator Jeremy Olinger, cast a wide net and resulted in interviews with “a lot of really great candidates,” and the hire that was made has extensive experience and a direct background in operating a recreation center. The newly hired manager will report directly to Olinger and in addition to serving as the general manager of the rec center itself, will also oversee all recreation in Berthoud.
The current expectation is that the rec center will have around 10 full-time employees as well as a considerable number of contract, seasonal and part-time staff filling roles such as fitness instructors, gym supervisors, lifeguards, custodial staff and the like.
Kirk said that FCI Constructors, the firm the town hired to build the rec center and other amenities at Waggener, “has been really great to work with,” and stated the project remains on budget and scheduled for completion in late-fall, early winter.