Taxpayers subsidized the city’s gym to the tune of $70,000 last year, due to lack of participation.
BY WAYNE GRANT | STAFF WRITER
A dwindling number of young people taking part in gymnastics has the city searching for ways to make the gymnasium at Nova Community Center busier and more cost effective.
The expenses for the gymnastics center expenses in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 were $101,000, while the program fees collected were only $31,000. The resulting subsidy of $70,000 will be borne by the city’s taxpayers.
Last June, the city issued a request for proposals in the hope that a private company would offer to take over the gymnastics program. On Tuesday, the City Commission voted to remove the RFP because not one bid had been received.
City Commissioner Troy Kent said the budget figures were “eye-opening when you look at what the city has to subsidize.”
He said the program is “on his radar” and he hopes the city can be creative and come up with a solution.
Before the meeting, Leisure Services Director Robert Carolin said the city issued the RFP to see if an outside company could run the program “with fewer dollars.” He said a private company might be able to invest in advertising or offer other programs like cheer or dance and still have a well-rounded gymnastics program. He said it would be difficult for the city to invest the time and money required to accomplish the same thing.
Part of the cost of gymnastics is to have instructors closely supervise gymnasts to provide a safe environment.
Carolin said the Leisure Services Department has plans to try to keep the gymnastics program viable.
“We’re going to look at creative ways to bring in more participants,” he said. “I think a lot of people don’t even know we have gymnastics.”
The department has created fliers to publicize gymnastics classes and plans to have small classes at places such as churches to introduce children to the sport.
The department has started a “mommy and me” program that has been very successful, Carolin said.
“We need more feeder programs like that,” he said.
The Leisure Services Department is also considering renting out space in the gym to aerobic or cheerleading instructors or other sports programs to bring in revenue.
The next step will be for the Budget Advisory Board to review the gymnastics program and make a recommendation on whether the city should continue to subsidize the activity. Any decision to end the subsidy would be made by the City Commission in a public forum.
Carolin said all Ormond Beach recreation programs are subsidized to provide opportunities for residents.
“It’s common to cities all over the country,” he said. “Our job is to provide the recreational opportunities that residents want.”
There has been a decline in young people taking part in gymnastics the last few years. In 2008 there were 770 registrations and this year there have been 557 registrations.
“Six or seven years ago, there was a waiting list,” Carolin said.
Carolin believes that young people are migrating to “cheer” programs, which involve a lot of gymnastic-type moves. Cheer begins early in Pop Warner sports, continues into high school and can involve a lot of children.
“A cheer program can have 150 to 250 kids. … It’s like a marching band,” he said.
He also said there has been a decline in all youth sports because of the economy.