Reynoldsburg explores creating a community center


By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

The former Reynoldsburg Swim Club.
The former Reynoldsburg Swim Club.

For nearly nine months, the former Reynoldsburg Swim Club has sat mostly empty, with the exception of a few ducks swimming in the outdoor pool that’s partially filled with rainwater.
Boarded windows and a charred rooftop remain from an August 2015 fire, as overgrown bushes begin to consume the swim club’s front welcome sign and a security fence warns of danger within its walls.

Look closely, and you’ll see signs of what was once a popular hang out in Reynoldsburg for five decades. Lifeguard chairs, basketball hoops and a sign for pool announcements still remain on the property located off Davidson Drive and East Main Street.

The city of Reynoldsburg, however, is hoping to breathe new life into the land by building a community center – an idea that has been in the making for several years and picking up steam.

Gauging interest

In April, the city held a public meeting to gauge residents’ interest in constructing a joint community/YMCA health and wellness center. The meeting also was an opportunity for officials to share results from a study conducted to determine residents’ reactions to a proposed center.

After the swim club closed at the end of the 2014 season, the owners approached the city about its interest in purchasing the land. Reynoldsburg Brad McCloud said the city is currently negotiating a contract to purchase the property, which is the favored proposed site for the community center should the idea continue to evolve.

“Reynoldsburg is the only suburb in Franklin County of anywhere our size without a rec center,” McCloud said.

To better understand the membership demand and anticipated program participation should a community center or YMCA be built in Reynoldsburg, PB&A Marketplace Intelligence, a research group based out of Bradenton, Fla., conducted a study in order to provide unbiased data to the city and the YMCA of Central Ohio.

Phil Balducci, president of PB&A, was on hand at the public meeting to reveal the results of the survey, which included two focus groups – a survey of 400 random telephone or online interviews of area residents who don’t belong to a YMCA currently, and another of 753 online interviews of current YMCA members at the Gahanna and Canal Winchester branches.

Revealing results

Among the survey of area residents who do not belong to a YMCA, Balducci found that when residents were asked to rate Reynoldsburg, 54 percent claimed it is a good or excellent place to live. One of the primary factors holding the rating down, he said, was that nearly 15 percent of respondents claimed there isn’t much to do in the city.

The survey also revealed that more households would likely purchase a membership at either a community center or YMCA if the price of membership is kept below $49 a month per family or $29 per month for an individual membership. In fact, Balducci said based on survey results, he projects nearly 3,000 households would purchase memberships at this price point.

“These are conservative projections for the first 12 months,” he said. “Most communities who do a good job – every community we’ve dealt with with YMCA as a partner – will beat these projections.”

The community survey also addressed what features residents want in a potential center, with aquatics taking the top spot, followed by an indoor walking/running track, multiple exercise studios, a state-of-the-art fitness/cardio center, a teen center and a social area with healthy snacks.

Of programs, residents expressed interest in water-based exercise and other fitness classes, but also noted the need for programs that focus on helping students succeed in school, preventing youth violence and encouraging physical rehabilitation.

Funding questions

In order to fund the construction of a center, McCloud said the city is looking at the possibility of a 1 percent income tax increase.

Projections of how much a center would cost, however, wouldn’t come until the next phase of the feasibility research, said Stephen Ives, President and CEO of YMCA of Central Ohio. Similar-sized communities, including Gahanna and Groveport, have community centers that have cost between $12 million and $18 million.

Brian Kridler, chief operating officer and senior vice president with YMCA of Central Ohio, said Delaware’s YMCA would be a good fit for Reynoldsburg. That facility is approximately 60,000 square feet, features two stories and cost about $18 million to build.

Though no decision has been made regarding whether the city would choose to construct its own community center or partner with the YMCA, Ives said at the April forum his intent is to be a partner and is currently looking at expanding the organization to include an additional three to four facilities in central Ohio. The YMCA also helped fund the community study.

“At this point we are simply part of the conversation,” Ives said. “We’ll play as big of a role as you’ll let us.”

As the YMCA has expanded throughout central Ohio, communities have differed in how their centers are funded, he said. Some cities have purchased the land, but allowed the YMCA to run – and absorb the costs – of operating the facility, which can amount to between $2.5 and $3.5 million a year. Others rely on tax dollars to fund the operating costs.

Funding for construction can come from a variety of sources as well, from a mix of private and public dollars, to corporate philanthropy.

“We’re really here not to make a profit,” Ives said. “We’re here to serve and strengthen the community.”

The building’s features also would have a significant impact on the cost of construction. Residents at the April community building expressed concern that despite survey results pointing toward a desire to have an indoor pool, an outdoor pool would not be included in the plans should the proposal get that far.

Balducci said he’s seeing more communities drop plans for outdoor pools because of the high costs associated with maintaining them and the few number of months residents can use them.

“Outdoor pools are closing all over because they are very expensive,” he said.

Instead, communities are opting to combine an indoor pool with an outdoor splash pad, he said.
Kridler added the YMCA is looking at all possibilities, even including incorporating technology that would allow for a retractable roof.

Taking baby steps

Though the talk of a new YMCA in town has gained traction, McCloud said there are many steps between now and the actual construction of the property.

The most pressing action is the completed sale of the former Reynoldsburg Swim Club site – the favored location for a proposed community center.

Approval of a 1-percent income tax hike also would be necessary, though there are no plans to put the measure on this year’s ballot. Instead, city officials are eyeing next spring, McCloud said.

The city likely will hold another community meeting later this summer to further gauge the community’s interest, he said, and further studies would need to be completed that would help estimate costs, key features, traffic patterns and other items related to the construction of a facility.

In the meantime, residents can get the latest information by following the Proposed Reynoldsburg Community Center Facebook page, and see the results of the community survey by visiting

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