News

Community center falls short financially

A consultant has been hired to determine why the Federal Way Community Center, with its new equipment and wide range of amenities, is not experiencing the amount of success projected in its 2007 annual budget.

As of July 31, the community center was generating 28 percent less year-to-date revenue than expected. The consulting firm GreenPlay was hired in late September to conduct a six-month review of the Federal Way Community Center and evaluate how the community uses the facility.

Mary Faber, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, is working with the group to perform the review. Together, they will evaluate the center's revenues, expenditures, operating costs and business plan. The focus is on increasing pass sales, rental options and awareness of the facility, Faber said.

"We are revisiting what our business is," she said.

A preliminary look at the community center's budget reveals that facility rentals have generated more money than expected and passholder fees have resulted in less revenue than expected.

Revenues, through July 31, for the community center totaled $399,000, according to the 2007 Federal Way Community Center budget. This number is $155,000 — or 28 percent — below year-to-date revenue projections.

Meeting expectations

Upon opening the Federal Way Community Center, the city expected much of the center's revenue to be generated by pass sales, Faber said. The premise of the business plan was based around these sales, she said.

As of Oct. 1, approximately 3,000 passes to the community center have been sold, she said. As of July 31, a total of 2,508 community center passes had been sold, resulting in $235,074 compared to an expected revenue of $427,667, according to the budget.

Options for pass holders are flexible, and people can utilize some of the center's functions without needing a pass, Faber said. Monthly and 3-month passes sell most; 755 and 711 were sold respectively through July 31.

Once a person's short-term pass expires, the center must then sell that customer another pass, Faber said. The consulting group will work with Faber to determine if pass types ought to be adjusted or prices altered, Faber said.

The review is in its beginning stages and Faber said she is unable to predict what might need to change.

Though pass sales have fallen short, revenue generated from facility rental fees has come close to meeting expectations. As of July 31, $46,895 had been collected as a result of rental uses. Year-to-date projections for rentals was $50,269, according to the budget.

Birthday party rentals are popular and within the year, the center hopes to offer wedding rentals, Faber said. Renting the gym for tournaments is also being considered and evaluated, she said.

In addition to making adjustments to the community center's internal operations, efforts to increase public awareness of the facility are needed, Faber said.

The city wishes to establish the community center throughout Federal Way and the region, she said. Federal Way's Web site, www.cityoffederalway.com, now features a Federal Way Community Center icon, which provides a direct link to information about the center. The Web site has been made easier to navigate as well, Faber said.

The consultant is expected to provide more suggestions as to how to make the community center more prominent.

Results of the six-month review will likely be presented to the City Council in November or December, Faber said. Adjustments to the facility's business plan may then be made, she said. A one-year review will follow the six-month review, and the city planned for both reviews prior to the center's construction, Faber said.

A business plan, especially for new businesses, is only a projection of what might take place, she said. The review will reveal what is actually taking place at the community center.

The community center staff and city are interested in improving the facility and providing the best services it can offer, while also meeting financial expectations, Faber said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

To learn more about the Federal Way Community Center or view pass holder fees, visit www.cityoffederalway.com and click on the center's icon on the left side of the page.

The aquatics programs and lessons offered at the Federal Way Community Center are more successful than predicted.

The 2007 budget estimated a year-to-date revenue would total $33,858 by July 31. The center has collected $73,888 from these programs, according to the 2007 community center budget. Pool rentals and competitive lap lanes have brought in a year-to-date revenue of $25,764, exceeding the expected revenue by $17,831.

In total, aquatic programs and lessons, paired with pool rentals and competitive lap lane use, have generated $99,652 in year-to-date revenue for the Federal Way Community Center. The pools provide the community with leisurely pool use options, rather than competitive options, which the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center offers, Faber said.

Mary Kubitz, a Tacoma resident, uses the leisurely pool at the center three times a week, she said. She has been visiting the center regularly since it opened in March to exercise in the pool.

The Federal Way Community Center, as of July 31, has outspent projections of year-to-date intergovernmental expenditures by $4,382, according to its 2007 budget. These expenditures include permit and county fees, Faber said. The community center's staff is learning as it goes and some things charged to that account may have better belonged in another account, she said. Faber and the consulting firm will review all the expenditures and determine if this is the case or if the budget reflects a drastic underestimating of these costs, she said.

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