CA considers sport-fitness facilities rate increases

February 12, 2006|By TYRONE RICHARDSON | TYRONE RICHARDSON,SUN REPORTER

On the same night that Lifetime Fitness was holding its grand opening, Columbia Association board member Miles Coffman asked staff members to consider raising some rates that Columbia residents pay for using association sports and fitness facilities.

In the 1980s, the association offered a discount to Columbia residents, who are required by the association to pay an annual charge based on their property values. Coffman, a board member from Hickory Ridge village, said the discount, which is roughly 50 percent, is too much. Some association board members said the cost of facility upgrades and rising utilities costs have made the rates review necessary.

In the proposed 2007 budget, many sports and fitness division rates are expected to rise, but at Thursday night's board meeting, Coffman said that is not enough.

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, board representative for Owen Brown, said increasing the rates would be a bad idea, especially with competition from Lifetime Fitness, a mega-gym at Gateway Commerce Center.

"If you raise those rates in the beginning of Lifetime Fitness opening, we are going to lose," she said.

Columbia Association President Maggie J. Brown told board members that increasing the rates would be premature and asked them to wait a few years to see the true impact of the competition.

"I think we are trying to do too much without seeing the impact of Lifetime Fitness," she said.

The increase in rates is measured by factors such as a market survey of other facilities in the area and historical trends. Coff- man said the ideal discount would be 40 percent, implemented by gradually increasing resident rates over the next several years.

"As you look at it, we have put more money in sports and fitness and we are looking for a return from that," Coffman said. "We have big-ticket items outside that we need to pay for, like dredging."

Phil Marcus, board representative for Kings Contrivance, said a uniform increase in membership fees would be a justified reaction to inflation from added costs of heating and other utilities.

"I think people are reasonable, and if you say you want to increase it because we have to pay more for the utilities, I think they will accept that," he said.

Donna DuPree, the association's director of marketing, fielded questions from board members about the possibility of raising rates. Later, the board asked her to come up with rate increases for certain memberships and present them at Thursday's budget work session.

Also at Thursday's meeting, in response to Joshua Feldmark's resignation as board chairman, Tom O'Connor, board representative from Dorsey's Search was named chairman, and Marcus was appointed vice chairman.

tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

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