By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
The new family recreation center at Lions Club Park in Killeen is scheduled to open May 3 and will include a fee schedule for those who want full access.
The Killeen City Council will vote on an ordinance at Tuesday's meeting to set the fees. During a workshop last Tuesday, most council members said they favored the fees.
Councilman Juan Rivera said he initially opposed the fees, but after thinking more about them, he changed his mind.
"I was real happy with those prices," Rivera said.
The fees vary depending on whether the membership is for a resident, nonresident, individual or family. The fees also vary depending on whether they are paid monthly, quarterly or annually.
The proposed fee for an individual resident is $20 monthly, $50 quarterly and $175 annually. The proposed fee for a family is $40 monthly, $110 quarterly and $400 annually.
Councilman Kenny Wells said he is in favor of the fees, but thinks residents will initially have a negative reaction.
"I still think we will see some sticker shock from these fees," Wells said. "It's really a bargain."
Individual nonresidents would pay $35 monthly, $90 quarterly and $300 annually. Family nonresidents would pay $65 monthly, $175 quarterly and $650 annually.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham said he was concerned that there is not a large enough price difference from resident to nonresident.
"I hope we always give residents first preference because they are paying for this," Latham said.
Councilman Larry Cole asked if the city would be undercutting private fitness centers, such as Gold's Gym or Gym X in Killeen.
Glenn Morrison, Killeen Community Services director, said the recreation center is not intended to compete with commercial businesses.
Rivera agreed that the new recreation center will not cater to the commercial fitness center market because members of those clubs are paying higher prices for many more amenities.
"We're not going to get that market," Rivera said.
The average annual fee for Gold's Gym and Gym X, according to the parks and recreation department, is $545 plus an enrollment fee.
The new recreation center will feature a basketball court with 12 goals on two wood courts. The second floor will be restricted to only those at least 16 years old, unless they are accompanied by an adult, and available only after paying the fee. It will include treadmills, elliptical machines, mechanical weights and free weights.
The equipment was bought with a $165,000 donation from Killeenite and professional football player Tommie Harris.
There will also be a three-lane, one-thirteenth mile track on the second floor.
Accessible to the general public will be a meeting room and lobby near the front entrance. Everything beyond the front desk will be available only by paying the proposed fee. Children participating in city youth sports and activities will have full access to the gymnasium and facilities.
"Ours is a mix of fitness upstairs and recreation downstairs," Morrison said. "We feel like this is the public fitness package."
There will also be a game room with computers, air hockey tables, etc.; a child care room; and locker rooms on the first floor.
"It is shaping up to be the project we thought it would," Morrison said.
However, Councilman Billy Workman opposes the fees.
"I still think the prices are steep," Workman said.
Workman, a substitute teacher, said he is worried about students who can't afford the fees.
"I see kids that don't have money for lunch," Workman said, noting some parents cannot afford it. "Those kids are going to be excluded."
Workman called the fees a method of "gatekeeping."
Morrison said he will seek support from local businesses to sponsor students who cannot afford the fees.
"If there's any child out there that needs support ? my office is wiling to sponsor someone," said Rivera, a local Progressive insurance agent.
Mayor Timothy Hancock said the fees are necessary for the new recreation center to not require additional tax dollars.
"These facilities must, must take care of themselves," Hancock said.
The mayor said it would be much easier to reduce the fees later if they can be lowered than to increase or add fees later to cover unexpected costs.
Morrison said the parks and recreation department did a cost comparison with other cities' public recreation centers and local fitness centers in the private sector to determine the fees. The survey showed the average annual fee for a resident is $158.
Brett Williams, parks and recreation department director, said the fees are a good deal. He noted that it costs $2 per day to swim at the pools in Killeen. For full access to the fitness equipment, gymnasiums and locker rooms at the recreation center, it would cost a resident who pays annually less than 50 cents per day.
"We don't find very many of these facilities without a fee," Williams said.
He also said the current community center will remain open at no cost.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7550