Jason Pohl
jpohl@mywindsornow.com

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October 8, 2013
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Windsor rec center talks go on, board spars on impact to small businesses

A fifth scenario for a potential Community Recreation Center expansion may come to fruition based on Monday’s Windsor Town Board meeting where at least two board members continued to express concern about the project, which has been discussed in-depth through most of 2013.

Mayor John Vazquez and Mayor Pro Tem Kristie Melendez remained cautious about the $14.9 million “scenario one” option, which includes a sprawling aquatics area with a lap pool, lazy river and spa as well as a weight room, track and auxiliary gym. They floated notions about adding an additional option that could include everything except the fitness area, which Vazquez said could be better left to a future phase. The reasoning, he said, stems from concerns about negatively affecting private fitness clubs in town and possibly acting as an unfair competitor.

While everyone on the board agreed coinciding with already-existing businesses remains a priority, the board sparred about whether local business would be negatively affected. Jeff Ratajczak from GreenPlay LLC — a group that worked on the initial feasibility study — maintained that while it would seem intuitive that a new and bigger subsidized gym would run smaller facilities out of town — as Vazquez said — the opposite was true. He stressed that different people will use the rec center for different things and some people will always prefer their own private clubs.

“What we have found is that one doesn’t affect the other,” Ratajczak said of the public and private fitness options. “You would think that it would, but in retrospect, what we have found nationwide is it does not and is actually quite the opposite.”

He said the purpose of major community recreation centers is to get people to try new things and cater especially to families on a budget. Then, if someone really gets serious about weight-lifting or a special class, he or she often seeks a private club to focus especially on that activity, thus creating a harmonious relationship.

Board members Jeremy Rose and Ivan Adams agreed, adding that they go to their own respective gyms and don’t necessarily want to work out around families and won’t leave their gyms, even if the complete rec center build-out proceeds. Robert Bishop-Cotner added in every regional rec center the board toured earlier this year, private gyms in the area remained open and some even increased their number of clients after new doors opened.

“People in all communities are looking for a one-stop shop destination for their recreational needs,” Ratajczak added, saying that if certain chunks of the first scenario are removed, it would reduce the overall cost recovery model for the center.

The discussion was the second of four aimed at finding the best course of action moving forward. Last month’s meeting ironed out details about the specific components in the center and ranged from what types of activities could be accommodated in the new gym to how windows would be aligned within the pool areas. Those meetings are in addition to others throughout the spring and summer where architects held a straw poll for community members to weigh in on which of four phases should be pursued. After eight meetings around Windsor, 104 unofficial votes were tallied with about 61 percent supporting the full build-out.

Even still, Vazquez said he is opposed to the current setup regarding funding and vision but said he would go along with the majority wishes of the board.

In light of Monday’s discussion, Vazquez and Melendez along with board member Don Thompson requested additional outside studies that have already been completed around the nation regarding the effect a government-subsidized center has on local businesses.

The next rec center work session is slated for Oct. 21 and will focus on sales tax structure and other potential resources or partnerships. The board will discuss its official decision and plan of action at the final meeting, set for Nov. 4.


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My Windsor Now Updated Jan 16, 2014 05:12PM Published Oct 17, 2013 12:14AM Copyright 2013 My Windsor Now. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.