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YMCA May Return to Flagler As School District Considers Leasing Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club

| March 3, 2015

There's no need to feel down: the YMCA may be returning to Flagler County after a four year absence.

There’s no need to feel down: the YMCA may be returning to Flagler County after a four year absence.

The YMCA may be returning to Flagler County, this time in an arrangement with the school district essentially to save the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club while cutting the district’s financial losses there, which will exceed $200,000 this year.

There is no formal proposal either from the Volusia Flagler YMCA or the school board. But the YMCA’s board chairman and Flagler’s director of Adult Education, which currently runs the racquet club, unveiled the informal proposal at a meeting of the school board this afternoon. The YMCA board supports the initiative. The school board gave its assent at least to go forward and develop a formal proposal.

For Kevin McCarthy, the relatively new adult education director given what looked like a thankless task a few months ago—to devise a way of keeping the swim and racquet club’s programs alive while ending the financial bleed they’ve represented for the past two years—a deal with the YMCA would fulfill a pledge he made to the board and the club’s membership: to preserve what has become part of the local fiber.

“The mission of FTI is changing where we’re focusing more on education than recreation,” McCarthy said in an interview after the meeting, referring to the Flagler Technical Institute, the formal name of adult education. “We’re not in the business of running pools and health and fitness classes, that’s not our expertise. That’s  what the YMCA does, and does very well.”

The YMCA was in Flagler County on two occasions before: at the Palm Cost Community Center in the 1970s and early 80s, and at Flagler Hospital Flagler for nine years until 2011, when the hospital needed the space. At the time, the Y had a membership of 900, accounting for a total of 1,200 people. (The Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club at last count had a membership of less than half those numbers.) But it has remained the Volusia-Flagler­ YMCA in hopes since to find a way to return.

A solution that would end financial bleeds at the racquet club while also saving its programs and returning a cherished organization to town.

“We’ve been in great dialogue with our friends at the YMCA to talk about some of the challenges we face in maintaining the day to day operations with engaging the community at the Swim and Racquet Club,” Superintendent Jacob Oliva said, “so what we’d like to do is introduce this concept to the board and share a little bit about the programming, and if the board gives us consensus to move forward with trying to formalize a proposal we would like to bring that to the board in the very near future.” Oliva stressed that the priority for the school board is to preserve such programs as its school swim teams and the county’s Synchro Belles.

The arrangement the Y and the school district are discussing would entail the Y leasing the racquet club and running it likely in partnership either with the district or with Palm Coast and perhaps private industry. But Oliva made clear that the district could not merely hand off the property in a lease arrangement, but would have to bring it up to certain standards—and spend money to do so.

In essence, the school board finds itself in similar circumstances that county government did with its old courthouse: the county had been looking to be rid of—or spin off—its courthouse, which had been costing it close to $100,000 a year in various maintenance bills for nearly a decade. But it was not finding tenants. It finally found a private school that will occupy the whole building, at very generous terms, including $375,000 from the county in capital improvements—money the school would ostensibly repay, at no interest, over the next 20 years.

Oliva was cautioning board members Tuesday that, without citing figures, some money would have to be spent on the racquet club before it becomes an attractive leasing option.

“There’s some extensive capital dollars that need to be invested in the facility so we need to come up with a plan to make sure that we get some improvements and everything up to place, hopefully to a level of standard that the YMCA wants to cherish and grow and support their program,” Oliva said. “So there is a lot to talk about and a lot to deal with. But before we started to go down that road I wanted to get a gauge from the board, is this the kind of conversation you want me to engage in before we come back with a formal process.”

It is, the board told Oliva (though the board was short two of its members at that point in the conversation: Andy Dance, who arrived a bit later, and Sue Dickinson, who was absent.)

McCarthy said the discussions have been going on with the Y for the past couple of months but got more serious in the last few weeks. He said the Y in Volusia and across the country has similar partnerships with local governments, running what used to be municipal pools—which, McCarthy said, are now prohibitively expensive for governments to run—with health clubs. “They would take over the day to day operations potentially for that facility and any other health and fitness program they want to bring to the area that would be up to them,” McCarthy said.

John Meneough, who chairs the Volusia Flagler YMCA board, said the Y board has been looking for a way back to Flagler for a while, with the recession getting in the way. He summed up the opportunity with the school district as “how can we work together, how can we take our expertise, how can we put programs in here and how can we expand it and look at different ways we can work together. It has to be a creative way. I know that you are losing money on it.”

The Y is hoping for a proposal within the calendar year, giving the school district a chance to phase out its current membership at the racquet club, directing it to the YMCA.

But the details of the deal, if there is a deal, are still very much to be worked out. “We’ll have to look at different ways, maybe even looking at bringing in other partners, third party, we’ve done that relationship with other cities, bringing in counties and city governments to help us out, and private industry. We have a lot of those things working. Once we get this to go public we can sit down and really roll up our sleeves and look at different ways we can do things.”

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10 Responses for “YMCA May Return to Flagler As School District Considers Leasing Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club”

  1. PCer says:

    We joined the raquet club a few years ago for the gym and so our kids would have a pool to hang out in for the summer.

    My kids were never comfortable becuase there were so few other kids there.

    It would be great if the Y were to take this over and figure out a way to get kids involved.

    • John says:

      Do you take your kids to the Fredia Zamba pool? That pool is more for kids and kid freindly. The BTS&RC is more in line for seniors.

  2. KB63 says:

    Good news. This would be wonderful.

  3. Rob says:

    That would be terrific for the YMCA to return to Palm Coast.

    The city of Palm Coast should underwrite a portion of the cost. It does throw away hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly to support the loss leading golf course and tennis center.

    Yes folks hundreds of thousands of dollars!

    Let’s see how this shakes out. The town council consistently finds money for projects it desires to fund and then claims it has no money for others..

  4. Kathryn says:

    I am one of three dedicated Youth Tennis Instructors at Belle Terre Swim & Racquet Club. We are “as needed” instructors, which means we only teach when there is a need. Over this past year we have worked hard to develop a successful youth tennis program and we would love to help the YMCA to continue these efforts, if this partnership comes to fruition. We want the school board and the Y to know that the United States Tennis Association offers facility and program grants to help organizations such as ours and we would love to part of the solution in obtaining these grants for the tennis portion of the facility.

    • lena Marshal says:

      that tennis program is a joke. Take yourself down to Volusia County and see what is going on down there . Each day there at least 30-40 in a tennis program taking lesson after school. Those courts are a joke was of money, and need so much repair. USTA already has tried to get up there in that area Kathryn, and do that for that club and the door was shut in their face.
      I don’t think the YMCA wants to revamp the tennis there. The City has a huge perfect beautiful facilities as the City of Port Orange where the club is, and Daytona their City program is for the kids, not for a bunch of teaches that want a second job.
      If the YMCA get this facilities and runs with it, look out.

  5. lena Marshal says:

    this photo is a blast at the YMCA and not very appropriate for this article you should be ashamed of this.

  6. Lancer says:

    This is a positive and correct step forward.

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