On Tuesday, Oct. 20, the Flagler County School Board is scheduled to decide the fate of the financially troubled Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club. In previous meetings the board sought to close the facility to the public, keeping it open for students. Two organizations have proposed to run the facility and erase the board’s budget deficit there: the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club Advisory Committee, which largely represents existing members, and Professional Sports Pathways, a private sports academy that runs the Center for Excellence, a soccer academy that enrolls some 60 home-schooled students locally. FlaglerLive invited both organizations to make their case. Professional Pathways does so in this piece. The Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club Advisory Committee’s piece appears below.
By Doug Courtney
Economic evaluations based upon national currencies are a common process by which competing solutions can be measured. One organization offers more revenue than another and that organization wins the purchase. But what are the evaluation parameters when currency should not be the measure?
In early August Flagler County Schools voted to close the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club to the general public on September 7. The inevitability of this action was predicated on the economic evaluation of a yearly loss of roughly $137,000. However, the facility still remains open to the public. The inspiration for the continued operations was not predicated on the realization of new money for operations, but a strong community interest in the club’s continued survival–a community interest displayed in hours of volunteer work, organizing, campaigning, letter writing, and even cash donations.
In the course of a few weeks members and associates of the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club came together to petition the school district for another chance to offset the club’s yearly losses, thus granting them, the schools, and other organizations a unique opportunity. However, the solution required a proposal from an identifiable, legally viable organization. In response, this loose confederation of members organized, incorporated, elected a board, developed bylaws and hosted a countywide open house, all in a matter of weeks. In the process, they even sold tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of annual memberships with no guarantee of receipt of services.
Email Your School Board Members:
It would be easy to dismiss such actions as the ravings of a small splinter group of unrepresentative senior citizens, or a group intent on preserving the fading past of bygone eras, a group unable to come to terms with changing times. But such remarks belittle the actions of club members, young and old, involved in this effort. The reason members have worked so adamantly for a solution to keep the facility open is due to their sense of community–the same sense of community that gave rise to the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club in the first place.
One of the goals of civic leaders has always been to establish a sense of community for residents. A strong sense of community carries a municipal organization through good times and bad. One need not look any further than New Orleans after Katrina to see the value of that sense of community. But in spite of the efforts of builders and planners, a City Center, Town Hall, or community center cannot create a sense of community. A sense of community is established only by its members, and only over time. This is what makes Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club so essential. It is one of the only places in this growing, transient city that can legitimately said to have created a sense of community.
Mothers and fathers have taught their children how to swim and play tennis at this facility. Those children are now teaching their children. Veterans of all ages use the only heated and disability-enabled public pool in the county to assist in their treatments, alleviating chronic pains. Old and young club members take great pride in displaying the banners of our sports teams, the Synchro Belles and Flagler Palm Coast High School Bulldogs. Karate classes, Zumba classes, International dance classes, and Tai Chi classes have been continuously active at the club for decades. Gym patrons watch after each other and support those recovering from surgery or injury.
The Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club is much more than a set of buildings and a pool. The club is a place to exercise, but it is also a place to socialize, interact, and connect for many members of our city and county. The club is a strong visible asset that many without children see as a return on their investment into the school district. This in turn creates a positive sense of connectedness to the district, a sense unmatched by any other conventional means.
It sometimes may appear that the louder group is driving the conversation. This is not the case. Our arguments have substance but are rooted in the abstract. We are vocal because the currency of community is hard for others to weigh against the currencies of economic evaluations without the passion of individual convictions.
Our club is not a recent commercial enterprise, here but for the benefit of profit. We are also not as transient as the next quarterly return. Neither are we targeting a single niche of our community. We are a Florida non-profit designed to operate a community health club that includes mothers, fathers, infants, children, students, seniors, families, and friends. We intend to improve and make our club self-sustaining for now and into the future. Our demonstrated passion to defend what we could lose is evidence of our commitment to succeed. Our success ensures a continuing sense of community.
Doug Courtney is president of the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club Advisory Committee.