The Garden City Commission on Tuesday gave approval for the Garden City Recreation Commission to pursue a more than $1.3 million renovation to a building at 909 Fulton St., with the intent of making it the future home of the youth gymnastics program GC Gymnastics.

Commissioners unanimously approved the GCRC's plan to enter into a 10-year, lease-purchase agreement to finance the estimated $1.32 million project.

GCRC Superintendent Aaron Stewart spoke to the commission about the growth in the GC Gymnastics program, which the GCRC purchased in August 2017, and the need for a new facility.

The program has outgrown its current, longtime facility at 1609 VFW Road, Stewart said, and requires a facility that not only will provide room for growth but also more safety for the gymnasts.

Stewart said the ceiling at the current facility is only 14 feet, and floor space is tight, which elevates risk for the gymnasts. The GCRC rents the facility on VFW Road, which has no air conditioning.

The facility on Fulton Street would provide an extra 2,000 square feet of floor space, as well as a 20-foot ceiling in part of the building, which Stewart said would give gymnasts more room to extend on certain apparatus.

The GCRC has owned the Fulton Street building since December 2017, when local businessman Cecil O’Brate donated it to the GCRC. According to the GCRC project analysis, the building is valued at $322,530.

In a memo to commissioners, Stewart said the GCRC board and staff determined that finding a more permanent facility that better fit the growth and safety needs of the program was a high priority, and identified the Fulton Street building as an ideal location.

In July 2018, the GCRC solicited a request for proposal for renovation designs and selected The Architect of Garden City, which began the design phase of the project in August 2018. The Architect provided three renovation options, including two cheaper ones that the GCRC board ultimately decided would not do enough to fulfill what they envisioned for the gymnastics program. The board pursued the $1.32 million option, approving it on Dec. 19.

The financial review of the project began in September 2018. When considering whether the GCRC could afford the renovation project, Stewart said, staff created a five-year budget, based on a recommendation from City Finance Director Melinda Hitz.

“One of the things that we really focused on is that operations, such as improvement and expansion of programming, asset replacement, staff development and continued wage growth would still happen unimpeded by this project,” Stewart said. “In other words, the last thing I was gonna tell our staff was ‘Oh, by the way, no raises for 10 years because we’re building a building.’”

The GCRC’s project analysis states that the GCRC staff and board “believe that the organization can absorb the capital lease payment while still accomplishing other goals that the board and staff have set.”

In the five-year budget forecast, a revised 2019 budget projects $2.22 million in revenue, up about 22 percent from what was budgeted in 2018. Expenses also are expected to be up, but the budget forecast projects $50,139 in profits for 2019, compared to $35,424 budgeted in 2018. The forecast projects profits of $41,876, $49,192, $44,553 and $47,480 in the four years following.

Stewart said the GCRC is budgeting an extra 15 percent contingency, or up to $1.5 million for the project, in case costs rise.

Stewart pointed to some specific areas in 2018 where the GCRC saw revenue growth, to include a rise in concession revenue ($22,000) and vehicle tax revenue ($35,000).

The gymnastics program makes up almost one-fourth of the GCRC athletic budget, making it one of its biggest revenue streams, Stewart said.

With the new facility, growing popularity in the program and 2020 being an Olympic year, Stewart expects more growth in the program.

“We are going to be doing this at the right time. There is a national trend in gymnastics — 2020 is an Olympic year, and every Olympic year there’s a huge bump,” he told commissioners.

He is projecting a 20 to 25 percent increase in participation.

“We’re hoping to gain more than that, especially if we build this new facility, but we think we can retain over the long term 20 to 25 percent, just with the extra space alone,” Stewart said.

City Commissioner Dan Fankhauser expressed some concern about the cost, wondering whether the GCRC could build a brand new facility for the amount it plans to spend on renovation. But ultimately, he joined other commissioners in approving the proposal.

Commissioner Melvin Dale asked Hitz if she felt the plan, from a financial standpoint, was sound given the GCRC’s past financial struggles. In late 2015, prior to Stewart's taking the helm in 2016, the GCRC was scrutinized after requesting $382,597 from the city of Garden City to help cover budget shortfalls.

“We have looked at their actual financials. We’ve gone in and looked at their budget, and they’re being very conservative on their estimates on that. They are allowing for growth in programming. They have hired staff that is competent in their accounting procedures. …” Hitz said.

She said Stewart assured her that all of the current programs being offered through the GCRC would continue to be offered.

“… He did satisfy everything that I questioned him on,” Hitz said.

In a separate interview, Stewart said the GCRC soon would begin the process of soliciting construction bids, with the goal of completing the renovation project by December.

 

Contact Brett Riggs at briggs@gctelegram.com.