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Report: Montgomery Rec Center Needs Non-Resident Users to Be A Success

A feasibility assessment report for the proposed Montgomery Township Recreation and Community Center outlines the center's potential come 2014 and beyond

Montgomery Township will hold the first of many public meetings this evening at 7 to discuss and review the proposed township community and recreation center to be constructed at Stump and Horsham roads.

In preparation for the meeting, the township has released the facility needs assessment and feasibility study report conducted by Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site.

You can read the report at this link.

One of the major aspects of the study — the center will be financially successful if it draws users from beyond Montgomery Township. The first year of operation will be 2014 or later, according to the report.

What the feasibility study showed was that the population of Montgomery Township alone, at around 25,000 individuals, was too small to support a new center.

However, a secondary service area population that totals 101,500 individuals is “a significant population to draw from for a recreation center.”

The secondary service area includes Lansdale Borough, North Wales Borough, Lower Gwynedd, Horsham, Chalfont, Line Lexington and Colmar, and Hatfield Borough.

Through meetings with township officials, consultants and staff, Kimmel Bogrette and its partner in this project,

Of the activities it outlined for a township center: one to three basketball courts that can be used for indoor sports like volleyball; a large community room with kitchen access and an outdoor patio; a large weight room and cardio room; two to three exercise and multipurpose rooms; a senior activities room; a youth lounge; a suspended running track overlooking a gym; and a café with ample seating.

There were also amenities reviewed, but not included in the final program: Pools, library, indoor/outdoor turf fields, and soccer/baseball fields.

As far as operating expenses, the report estimated about $634,055 in full-time and part-time personnel costs, and about $99,500 in commodities costs. Overall contractual costs are estimated at $228.500 a year.

Along with a $17,000 capital replacement fund, total expenses are estimated at $979,055 for one year.

The study also looked at performing arts participation as it compares to the national average. It found that opera, jazz and classical music attendance and participation were on a decline between 1982 and 2008. The latter continued to decline at a 29 percent rate since 1982, with the steepest drop between 2002 and 2008.

Attendance at art museums and craft fairs also declined in the same time period. According to the report, art museum attendance dropped to 23 perecnt in 2008, which was the same rate in 1982. Attendance at U.S. parks and historical buildings dropped nearly 33 percent since 1982.

The report also found that adults are creating or performing at lower rates, even with online accessibility and exposure.

Ballard*King and Associates is a firm working with Kimmel Bogrette in the feasibility study. Ballard*King conducted research at community recreation centers across the United States and found that a majority of centers are a maximum of 75,000 square feet, with primary recreation areas being a pool, a multipurpose gym space and a cardiovascular area. There are also classroom spaces, group exercise rooms and daycare areas.

“For most centers to have an opportunity to cover all of their operating expenses with revenues, they must have a service population of at least 50,000 and an aggressive fee structure,” states the report.

As noted before, the primary service area of the township totals around 25,000, half of Ballard*King’s market research results for profitability.

Furthermore, the firm’s research estimated such centers have an operating budget of between $1.5 million and $1.8 million a year. More than half of those operating costs are for personnel, and about a quarter are for contractual services.

“For centers that serve a more urban population and have a market driven fee structure, they should be able to recover 70 percent to 100 percent of operating expenses,” states the report. “For centers in more rural areas, the recovery rate is generally 50 to 75 percent.”

If Montgomery Township builds a center, it won’t realize a true benchmark of operation until its third year, according to the report.

As far as fees for use of the center, it is common to have resident and non-resident fees in a three-tiered structure. On average, adult residents can pay as much as $6, with youths and seniors paying as much as $4. Annual rates are estimated between $200 and $300 for adults and at most $200 for youths and seniors.

Kimmel Bogrette and Ballard*King recommend instructional programming in a variety of disciplines as a major component to a center’s success. Special events,  community programs and social welfare programs are also at the top of the marketing list.

The report estimates that about 15 percent of Montgomery Township’s recreation center market will be taken from nonprofit facilities like North Penn and Ambler YMCA. All in all, there is an estimated 20 percent difference between the public and private market rate, with 10 percent of the market being satisfied by private facilities like Retro Fitness, LA Fitness, Total Body Fitness and Horsham Athletic Club.

That leaves the market at 5 percent for Montgomery Township’s facility, according to the report, or about 1,250 users. These users could be potential annual pass holders for the proposed center. Add about 2.5 percent of the secondary market, and the center adds about another 1,900 pass holders.

“There is not a public, active-use-focused, community recreation center in the primary or secondary service area,” states the report. “Despite the presence of a number of other provides in the greater Montgomery Township area, there is a market for another indoor recreation facility, if it has a different orientation and focus.”

A larger market draw is possible if equity partnership can be established with other recreation providers, according to the report.

“The center will have to draw users from beyond the township boundaries to be financially successful,” the report states.

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