Recession Or Not, Columbians Are Willing To Pay For Recreation

September 29, 1991|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

It may not be an official economic indicator, but it's certainly a sign that Columbia residents are taking their recreation seriously during a recession.

More than 200 members of the Columbia Association's athletic facilities opted to spend $300 to $400 to upgrade their memberships for extra privileges between May 1 and July 31.

That was one bright spot in an otherwise disappointing first-quarter report for the association, a non-profit corporation that owns and maintains more than 2,000 acres of open space, as well as playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts, a golf course and other facilities.

The ailing commercial real estate industry has hurt the association's assessment income, a quasi-tax on all Columbia property.

Thereport estimates that money the association collects on new propertywill fall $400,000 below its fiscal year 1992 budget projection because of the commercial real estate slump. That will be offset, however, by about $200,000 expected this year as a result of property tax reassessments, the report said.

"Basically, there's been no new construction in that area," association president Padraic M. Kennedy toldthe association Board of Directors when the report was presented Thursday night. Kennedy and nine Columbia Council members, one for each of the nine villages, make up the board.

The shortfall will slow the association's attempt to retire its $24 million deficit. Its 1992 budget projected shaving nearly $1.8 million from that amount, but the report says shortfalls in income have reduced that estimate to justunder $1.5 million.

At the meeting, Goldman discussed increased interest in the Package Plan Plus membership, an upgrade from the standard Package Plan for use of Columbia's neighborhood pools, athletic facilities and other programs. For example, a family Package Plan annual membership costs $555, while Package Plan Plus costs $924.

"I hope that that's in expectation of the opening of the Supreme Sports Club," he said, referring to the $6.5 million spent to renovate the Supreme Court athletic club, which reopens Oct. 4. Its women's gym andNautilus facilities are included under Package Plan Plus but not in the standard plan.

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