Leisure Square health club concept to rescue recreation budget

VERO BEACH — In an effort to streamline the existing fee structure and raise a more steady revenue stream for operations, Leisure Square is changing to a membership concept, like a private gym.

Recreation Director Rob Slezak presented the idea as a strategy to keep Leisure Square going in future budget years, but he had not planned on a proposal going forward so soon.

“We’d like to restructure Leisure Square and offer it as a health club, which is what it is,” he said. Currently, user fees at Leisure Square are on an a la carte basis, with daily, monthly or annual fees to use different parts of the facility.

Gym memberships to use the fitness center range from $45 to $130 depending on age and residency status. Pool passports cost $38 to $48 per month for a family, or $350 to $450 per year. Combination gym and pool memberships are currently available at $20 per month per person for city residents or $25 per month per person for non-city residents.

The new membership would be structured to help cover the costs of running Leisure Square, heating the pool and paying the staff, lifeguards and utility bills.

“With what we offer, even if we restructure, it’s going to cost the participants half of what it would cost anywhere else,” Slezak said.

Last year, the city considered closing the Leisure Square pool. In preparation for budget workshops, Councilman Ken Daige said he had heard from numerous city residents about recreation programs.

“People said if it meant increasing the fees a little bit they would be willing to do that to help keep it open,” Daige said. “I know Mr. Slezak and his folks do a good job to keep costs down. They will pay a little more, this is do-able.”

Slezak was instructed to bring back a detailed proposal, which the City Attorney’s office would put in resolution form to be considered during public hearings at upcoming City Council meetings.

The recreation budget was slated to be cut from $3.2 million to $2.8 million, $2.1 million of which comes from the city’s general fund.

To further relieve the strapped recreation budget, the city will also be seeking sponsorships for some of the signature, annual events.

The Halloween Parade, Easter egg hunt, Aerial Antics Circus and Mother-Daughter Tea will be available for local businesses and organizations to support. Without this influx of private dollars behind these events, they could be limited or go away entirely.

“I think the public wants these events and hopefully we can find some participation,” said City Manager Jim Gabbard. “I will work with the recreation staff to find some sponsors.”

Electricity for Little League games costs the city between $39,000 and $42,000 per year, which is paid to the city electric utility. To shave some dollars from those costs, the city will be asking Little League organizers to retool their program without reducing opportunities for kids to play.

“We’re just trying to get them to alter their schedule to have more day games to help with the utilities,” Gabbard said.

Suggestions were also made about charging nominal fees for participation in some city recreation events that are currently free of charge.

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