By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
It’ll be Friday night lights out a littler earlier at the Bowling Green Community Center starting Feb. 3.
At Tuesday’s Parks and Recreation Board meeting, Director Kristin Otley announced the center will close at 7 p.m., instead of 9 p.m. A census of usage found an average of eight people using the facility from 7 to 8 p.m. and two using it from 8 to 9 p.m.
Few people use the facility at that time, but the lights still have to be on and three staff members have to be on duty. It costs the center $91 an hour to stay open. The change will save the department about $8,100 annually.
This will mean the center is open 91.5 hours from January through the day after Memorial Day, and 87.5 hours a week during the summer.
Tim Stubbs, facilities coordinator, said the change “has been on the backburner for years,” and the administration finally decided “pull the trigger.”
Some people question the reduction given the department just passed a levy, but Otley said “we still need to be good stewards of those tax dollars.”
Mayor Dick Edwards asked if the department was looking at ways to increase usage. He noted that income is down even though the center always gets “glowing reports” from the public.
Otley said that competition has increased as other fitness centers have entered the market, and “Bowling Green is the same size it was.”
Ivan Kovacevic, the recreation coordinator, said a drop off in attendance is evident whenever a new center opens.
Stubbs said sometimes other facilities offer reduced rates to start. Once the rates return to normal, some people leave. “In my experience we’ll pick some of these people back up,” he said.
Otley also said that the Silver Sneakers program, which encourages older people to exercise, is a good deal for the participants, but it can cost the recreation center revenue.
If a senior citizen buys a pass to the Community Center, the center gets the money no matter how many times the member visits. With Silver Sneakers, the center only gets the $2.50 reimbursement whenever the senior swipes their card. If the senior visits eight times a month, that’s fine, but if they only come twice a month, that’s lost income.
Otley said the department is looking at increased programming to attract seniors to the facility.
Stubbs said that with the first phase of the improvements at Wintergarden completed, planning is underway on the second phase. The initial building plans didn’t have what the department was looking for so new plans are being drawn up.
Otley handed out the schedule of fees for the aquatic center with the intent of having a discussion about fees in February. City Council would have to approve any changes in the fees in March for them to take effect this summer.
Kovacevic reported that Aquatic Center usage was up over 20 percent in 2016 with 46,291 people using the pool. Increases were seen both in those with season passes and in those paying daily fees.