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North Austin Community Recreation Center moves forward

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 by Laurel Chesky

A long-awaited recreation center planned for north Austin moved one step closer to reality last week. On Thursday, City Council voted unanimously to approve a plan for the North Austin Community Recreation Center, at 1000 West Rundberg Lane. In addition to approving the development agreement between the city and the YMCA of Austin, Council added language placing an ex officio member from the North Austin Civic Association on the building’s design committee.


That person will join two members of the Parks and Recreation Department staff, the project manager from the Public Works Department, and three individuals from the YMCA to help design the look of the new facility.


In 2006, voters approved $8.9 million in bonds to build the center. The design calls for a 30,000-square-foot center with an indoor pool, a gymnasium, a fitness center, meeting rooms, and a computer lab. The center will offer senior and youth programs, youth sports, fitness classes, and educational programs.


Under the current plan, the city will partner on the project with the YMCA of Austin, which will contribute $1.5 million to the construction budget. The city will grant the YMCA a 20-year lease to operate the facility, under which the YMCA will pay for day-to-day operations and maintenance expenses. Pending Council approval, the center is slated to open in July 2012.


The partnership allows the city to build a bigger, nicer facility than it could with city money alone, said Parks and Recreation Department Director Sara Hensley. Without the YMCA’s involvement, she said, the center would not have a swimming pool or exercise room and would be open to the public only 67 hours per week instead of the proposed 100 hours. The partnership will save the city an estimated $13 million in operating and maintenance costs over 20 years, according to parks staff.


“We selected to take (the partnership) on because we thought it was the right thing to do for the neighborhood,” Hensley said.


Some north Austin community members have criticized the project, arguing that the city is essentially funding a private club in a low-income neighborhood. Others oppose the city partnering with a non-secular, Christian organization.


But project supporters outnumbered opponents at last week’s Parks Board meeting.


“No question there has been opposition,” said resident Tony Reda. “I’m 70 years old and I would like to see (the community center) come to fruition. It’s a no brainer. Let’s move on.”

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