The ORC board last week approved adding a fee scale for users at the building, 705 W. 15th St., effective Jan. 1, 2014. The Goppert building has had free admission since its September 2011 opening, but the rising costs of maintaining the facility forced officials to consider instituting a cost for admission. The fees approved by the board Wednesday were $2 per day for ages 12 through 59, $1 per day for ages 6 through 11 and 60 and up. Children age 5 and under would be admitted free.
Because the recreation center is used by many Ottawa youths, Tommy Sink, ORC director said, staff members who determined the details of the fee scale worried about making it cost-prohibitive for children.
“I am more concerned about youth than adults,” Sink said. “There was a lot of discussion with staff behind the scenes of what the cutoff should be, what should be free and what we thought was fair. It’s tough when you are sitting right next to a middle school and we are a stopping-off point for a lot of kids.”
To help offset the rising costs while also keeping the admission fees low, he said, the ORC is planning other tactics to reduce expenses at the Goppert building. One such move will be to cut little-used programs offered by the ORC, which is supported by Ottawa school district patrons’ tax dollars, as well as from the proceeds of profitable programs for which the ORC charges an activity fee.
“We have broadened our programs dramatically since coming out [to the Goppert building in 2011] and we are constantly reviewing them,” Sink said. “If I have to look at taking some cuts, it will be programs that are not utilized that much. ... If we are losing money, we can’t keep having them.”
Such popular programs as soccer and baseball aren’t in danger of being discontinued, he said, because they help finance staff and the upkeep of equipment in the building.
“We have to manage ourselves better,” Sink, who has been director since 2012, said. “We’ve got to make the changes now to do the right thing to give the people the opportunity for programs and recreation. We were over 100 programs not too long ago and that is great. But if those are not valued programs, then we do not need to spend the time, effort, labor and expense to continue them — not that they are not important. We do such a broad range that we just may have to re-evaluate some of what we do.
Another change planned alongside the new admission fee is a rearrangement of the entrance area at the Goppert building, to include a funnel-like look to the front desk, which allows staff to be more prepared for paying customers.
“We are going to have to do a little changing of the way people enter,” Sink said. “Not much, but we are talking about things like you see at a theater — the rope kind of post to kind of guide them into the front desk. That is going to be a learning process for our customers as they come in.”
The ORC leader reiterated the admission fee and other changes are not indicators of problems that threaten to shutter the 2-year-old facility.
“There is no intentions to ever close this building for financial reasons as long as I’m sitting here,” Sink said. “We just hope that the public understands.
Sink said he welcomes feedback from the public.
“If it is reasonable, I’ll take it into consideration and take it back to the board,” he said. “If you have an idea, I’ll sure listen.”