The Summit Activities Center (SAC) was a new idea when it opened its doors to the public in 1996.
The facility is nearing its third decade of operation and still provides the Yankton School District (YSD) and the public with an important range of exercise facilities and communal space. The facility is a joint venture between the YSD and the City of Yankton.
However, the reality of operating an aging building that has been heavily used overall, coupled with a changing training culture, raises some concerns among city officials about the long-term viability of funding their share of the cost.
City manager Amy Leon told Press & Dakotan that the SAC, which is affiliated with Yankton High School, is a great asset to the area, but some discussion is needed.
“This building has served the community really well,” she said. “We’re at a point where it is slowly aging and we have some pretty expensive investments to keep it running.”
Major projects in recent years have included a new car park and modernized HVAC in the pool area.
All of this has weighed on the city’s general fund, according to Leon.
In 2017, the transfer from the general fund for the facility was $ 248,262. By 2020, that amount had swelled to $ 516,141.
“The reason for this increase is primarily due to a drop in sales as well as increased operating costs and maintenance,” said Leon. “In 2021 we assume that the transfer will be even higher. We estimate this will be around $ 600,000 and more in 2022. “
The COVID-19 pandemic, which saw services severely restricted for most of 2020, did not help.
“We had a year of very minimal operation and we didn’t think it was right to charge people the same amount for less service, so we changed the membership structure,” she said. “COVID hit us pretty hard, but we still had all of our expenses on running the facility – heat, utilities, and all of those things. We didn’t get any income from rentals and things like that. “
In view of the pandemic, the opening hours of the SAC have been changed and group fitness activities have been canceled.
According to Todd Larson, director of Parks & Recreation, in the mid-2010s, when the facility was at its busiest, visitors would exceed 4,500 people over two weeks in the mid-2010s. In December 2020, just over 800 visitors were recorded over a period of two weeks.
“We were a third to a quarter of what we were in terms of members, attendance and revenue,” he said.
But aside from the aging structure and a global pandemic, Leon said there is one factor that cannot be avoided – the SAC was built for an entirely different fitness landscape.
“When they opened this facility, there really weren’t a lot of fitness and group fitness options,” she said. “That was the only operation in town. Fast forward 30 years, there are many different options. We have a few different private facilities that do group fitness, have cardio machines, or offer options for individual weightlifting or training. We also have the start of Home Fitness where you can stream almost any type of fitness live. We know that many people no longer use these types of facilities because they do their training at home as they please. “
She said other amenities introduced in the private market are just impractical for the city.
“There are some things that have changed in the industry like 24-hour access,” she said. “It’s just something that we cannot occupy. We can’t keep up with the trends in fitness and sports like the private sector can. “
Leon said these increasing realities mean some discussion of long-term plans for the establishment is needed.
“We need to talk a little more seriously about what the future will look like as it becomes expensive to operate and some ongoing maintenance,” she said. “Because of the age of the building, we will always have more.”
Leon said she was already with YSD Superintendent Dr. Wayne Kindle has been in touch about some of these concerns, but that more formal talks are imminent.
“We have an agreement with the school to run this, so we know we need to renegotiate our company agreement in some form or way,” she said. “The school council and the city commission have a joint committee. I wanted Dr. Kindle and his folks get their legs under their feet at the beginning of the school year, then put this committee together and start saying, ‘What are the options? Do we see the funding coming from elsewhere? Are we seeing a lot of changes in the company? What needs does the school have? What needs does the city have? ‘”
When asked to comment on the matter, Kindle told Press & Dakotan, “The YSD is not at a point to make decisions regarding SAC. We will have further committee discussions in the next few months. “
Leon said she would like to see the dialogue start sometime this fall but expects the discussion to be a long-term affair.
“Discussions can take a long time, but I think it is fair that we speak openly about the financial realities of this space and find out what priorities our community and our school have in terms of recreation and communal use of this building, ” She said.
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