Saline Recreation Center: Council Raises Rates by 6%, Approves $60,000 Feasibility Study

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Changes are coming to Saline’s Recreation Center.

City council unanimously passed two measures impacting the Woodland Drive facility at its Nov. 21 meeting.

Council approved a 6 percent increase in all membership fees and raised the cost of youth daily passes from $5 to $8 starting January 2023.

Council also authorized an almost $60,000 feasibility study of the recreation center (Rec Center), hiring Maine company BerryDunn to undertake the project.

“We had estimated … that it would be up to $50,000. … It’s a little bit more than we expected,” said Saline Parks and Recreation Director Carla Scruggs. “They have quite a bit of experience … in other communities here in Michigan and throughout the nation.”

However, Council Member Janet Dillon expressed concerns about the study’s purpose and direction.

“What it doesn’t address is whether the Rec Center is actually a feasible asset for the city to maintain. I thought that was something we were going to talk about, whether or not it is actually viable for the city,” Dillon said, adding, “I thought we were going to look at different scenarios … whether we should be looking at privatization or county takeover or sale of it.”

Adequate revenue has been an issue for the 30-year-old, 40,000-square-foot facility, most recently during the pandemic. Mandated closures in 2020 and the public’s general hesitance to resume use of brought a significant decline in the Rec Center’s revenue.

City council responded by looking towards The Rec Center Sustainability Task Force in 2021, which recommended doing the feasibility study and implementing the 6 percent membership fee increase.

Scruggs said the increase was necessary to compensate for inflation, which has driven up the cost of the facility’s hard goods. Membership rates had been set to increase 1.5 percent for 2023.

BerryDunn noted that Saline’s population has grown 15 percent since the Rec Center opened and framed the study as aimed at identifying “expansion needs.”

The study report is expected to provide demographics and population projections for the Saline area, competitive market studies, an assessment of the community’s recreational needs and recommendations on the facility’s operations and budget.

Dillon questioned whether the study was merely a way to postpone an evaluation of the Rec Center’s long-term future.

“I feel like we’ve seen that movie before,” Dillon. “We keep getting to that same point and then we stall.”

Saline Mayor Brian Marl said the study will address Dillon’s questions. The Rec Center’s operations, organization, funding and future are an “absolutely essential” component of this feasibility study, Marl said.

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Another $60K feasibility study?  The Rec Center has been an economic failure since the day it was opened.  Remember when the schools "leased" the pool to support the RC?  It was just other tax dollars being used to make it look successful.  Imagine what your water bill would be today if the money spent on the RC had been used to take care of our water and sewer systems?

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The rec center is an important part of the Saline community. I use it regularly, as do a lot of people. I think their prices are actually extremely low, and per class prices could be increased without negative effects. I think better advertising of their amenities would help as well.

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