Communication Builds Our Community

Family Recreation Center Improvement Plans Finalized for Former YMCA

City Will Invest In Repairs, Staffing of Complex

The City of Lake Wales plans to spend nearly $80,000 on renovations of the former Family YMCA on Burns Avenue as it steps into control of operations there. The facility is being rebranded as the Lake Wales Family Recreation Center.

After purchasing the facility in February 2020 for $900,000, the city had entered into an agreement with the West Central Florida YMCA to operate the center.

The 25,790-square-foot recreation facility and swimming pool on 9.45 acres of property was appraised at more than $2.2 million. The complex includes a large pool, weight rooms, and other health facilities.

Earlier this year the YMCA group abruptly announced that the facility was "closing" as they cancelled their contract effective November 1.

Tensions between the management group and users of the facility had been growing, along with complaints about a lack of maintenance, firing of staff, and cutting of programs including a day-care and after-school program that many parents had depended upon.

With the city stepping into the management role, many changes are underway, and replacement of virtually all the gym equipment being among the first announced improvements.

The city commission has approved a lease/purchase agreement to supply the facility with all new equipment at a cost of $310,082, to be paid over five years. That will provide for both the fitness center and the group exercise room at the complex.

"Our goal is to create a fresh, modern space for families to engage in health and wellness activities," City Manager James Slaton said in a previous statement on the matter.

"The facility is a landmark in our community, and we plan to make it better by staffing it with people skilled in recreation programming and business management," Slaton added.

Commissioners have backed Slaton's plans to hire new staff for both the Recreation Center and the Albert Kirkland Gymnasium at an annual cost of $728,000. The new costs were cited in the commission's recent approval of a one-mill increase in ad valorum taxes on real estate in the city.

Other expenses for the operation of recreation facilities bring the total cost of operations to $849,292, a figure which commissioners hope to offset with $400,000 in revenues from memberships.

Planned improvements to the building itself include removal of the vinyl tile flooring in the entry, lobby, rear hallway, childcare area, and the Turner Center meeting room, replacing it with new vinyl plank flooring.

Also planned is the painting of walls in those same areas, along with walls in restroom and shower areas, which will also see tile grout cleaned and sealed. The replacement of a "rotten" plywood ceiling in the gym area is included in the work, which will be performed by SEMCO Construction for $78,976.37.


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