By Amanda Ensinger
The Prairie Township trustees approved a slight membership rate increase at the Prairie Township Community Center.
At a recent board meeting, township leaders said the increase was necessary to keep up with continued increases in expenses needed to run the center.
“We thought instead of asking for a large increase every 10 years or so, we would ask for small increases every two to three years,” said Tracy Hatmaker, township administrator. “The board approved a $1 a month increase that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.”
The increase will raise all membership costs by $1 per month or $12 a year. Currently rates range from $172 a year to $933 a year, depending on the age of the member, if they are a township resident and if they have an individual or a family membership.
“This is the first increase we have had since the center opened and we hope to continue to keep these increases as minimal as possible,” said Hatmaker.
The increases will generate approximately $70,000 a year for the community center.
The center has 5,800 members, but hopes to have 6,000 in the coming year.
“We are thrilled with how successful the community center has been and how much residents are enjoying it,” said Hatmaker.
Prairie Township officials have said they are already looking at ways to expand the community center, including the size of the pool. They would like to add a lap section, as well as a swim competition area. Organizers also are considering adding a second gym to the center.
“We have seen the popularity of the community center and know it is never too early to talk expansion,” Hatmaker said. “However, nothing is on the table yet and these are just general conversations.”
In related news, James Gant, director of the community center, gave an update on the fundraising efforts of the Prairie Township Community Fund.
The fund would raise money to build an artificial turf field that would be designed specifically for individuals with special needs.
“The field will have a hard surface and will be an artificial turf,” Gant said. “This will allow people in crutches or wheelchairs to more easily use the field and won’t be as restricting for them as a natural field would be.”
Recently the community fund sent out a survey to Prairie Township residents, business owners and those on the community center email list to gauge stakeholders’ interest level in fundraising and raising money for recreation programs, including the new field.
The township received $500,000 toward the artificial turf project in the 2018/19 state capital appropriations budget.
These funds would be used to build the access road to the new field, but the community fund still needs to raise funds to build the actual field.
“We need an access road to the field before we can have the field, so it made sense to use these funds to create an access point first,” Hatmaker said. “This money also will be used to create a parking lot, as well as placing plants by the field.”
The field will be located in the new Galloway Road Sport Complex and will be north of the current fields on the property.
In total, this project will cost approximately $1.8 million and organizers hope it will be complete by 2020 or 2021. Other projects the community fund is considering taking on in the future include a Special Olympics track and field, as well as additional upgrades and expansions to the community center.