CHATHAM - Barring any snags in negotiations, construction could start this spring on a proposed indoor swimming pool, fitness center and sports medicine clinic near Glenwood High School.
The negotiations began after the Ball-Chatham School Board decided Monday to pursue a partnership with FitClub and St. John's Hospitalto use the proposed complex, which would be built on school district property.
Plans include a swimming pool with diving well, a family fitness center and an AthletiCare facility.
District officials say a 25-year lease is being considered. Terms will be brought to the board for final approval, possibly in the next 30 to 40 days. The agreement would include putting the property back on tax rolls.
Dr. Kevin Imhoff, CEO and owner of FitClub, said the goal is to open the facility in time for the 2012-13 school year.
Imhoff plans to meet with his builder on Monday to discuss moving the complex's location farther east of Glenwood High to property off of Iron Bridge Road, a request made by the school board to accommodate traffic and safety concerns. The building originally was proposed to go next to Glenwood High School.
"It will give us more space for St. John's to bring in dermatology and other specialty positions to their offerings, and then FitClub will have the ability to put a deck and splash pad (outside the pool area)," Imhoff said of the new location.
H&I Real Estate, FitClub's real estate arm, would build and own the facility and lease the property back to FitClub, St. John's and the school district, Imhoff said.
The district expects to pay $21,000 per month to cover utilities, equipment and staffing for 40 hours of weekly pool usage guaranteed to the district. Ball-Chatham pays $10,000 a year now to use Eisenhower Pool in Springfield for its swimming and diving teams.
Some opponents have balked at the cost difference.
Ball-Chatham parent Lisa DeClue says she believes the district could get a better deal.
"As I see it, we're letting Fit Club and AthletiCare build on our land and allowing them to then charge us exorbitantly for the use of the pool they dug on our ground and built a profitable business around," DeClue said.
During Monday's meeting, board member John Kwedar said Springfield Park District officials told him maintenance alone of Eisenhower Pool costs more than $150,000 a year.
"That doesn't include the facility management, and that's almost $15,000 a month," he said.
School board president Jim Neuses also pointed out that $21,000 a month cost is about one-half of 1 percent of the district's annual budget. The district's total budgeted expenditures for fiscal 2012 total $51.7 million
School Superintendent Bob Gillum said district officials haven't determined how the district will cover the lease payment.
"One of the things we balance is the educational value versus are we purely paying to offset the maintenance costs," he said. "The reality is, it's some of both."
He said the district could charge a fee for programs such proposed swim lessons for first-grade students.
"Those kinds of revenues would be charged at the time of registration, like book rental," he said.
He said Imhoff also is open to discussion of profit-sharing if membership in the Chatham facility grows.
During summer months when the district is not using its allotted pool time, Imhoff has offered to split revenue from FitClub pool programming with the district.
"The one thing we can't answer that people keep asking me is the 'what if,'" Gillum said about the potential for the complex to fail. "There's always a risk. You can't guarantee anything for the future."
Imhoff said he understands some of the opponents'concerns.
"A lot of negativity that you see associated with the project is people that have their own agendas and reasons for not wanting the project to go forward and having that money go elsewhere," he said. "I think overwhelmingly, the community is pretty excited about the project."
Amanda Reavy can be reached at 788-1525.
The proposed construction of a public health club on Glenwood High School's campus prompted numerous questions about student safety.
Dr. Kevin Imhoff, CEO and owner of FitClub, said his business does not perform background checks on individual members, but does check names against the state's database of registered sex offenders.
Existing FitClubs offer only adult programming, so sex offenders are not excluded from the clubs, he said. "But they are not allowed in during childcare hours," Imhoff said.
Since the proposed Chatham facility would host youth programs, sex offenders would not be allowed at that location at any time.
FitClub facilities are equipped with security cameras, Imhoff said.
If built, FitClub's proposed Chatham location would be open to all FitClub members. Membership rates are $63 per month for one year or $53 per month for two years.
Some Ball-Chatham School District residents have questioned how taxpayers could access the pool facility without becoming members.
Imhoff said he plans a daily fee option for non-FitClub members to use the pool, including some type of punch card for multiple visits. He's also offered to provide memberships and daily pool rates at half-price to students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches.
Imhoff said his club probably will offer swim lessons beyond what the schools provide, as well as water aerobics classes and open swim times.
Imhoff said "a very small percentage" of members take advantage of all facilities, and he expects that will also be true for the Chatham site.
FitClub already has 700-plus members from Chatham.
Without the partnership from St. John's Hospital and the school district, he would not build a club in Chatham, Imhoff said.
A Ball-Chatham School District team that analyzed the academic and health benefits of a proposed pool and fitness center on district property said it would provide services not offered at any other school in the area.
Mostof the team's discussions centered on how to provide swimming lessons to students, said team leader Chris Becker, Glenwood High School's associate principal.
The team recommends offering swim lessons to all first-grade students, based on recommendations from the American Red Cross. FitClub could provide swim instructors at a ratio of one for every five students, though the cost has not been determined.
Other programs deemed feasible include lectures from St. John's physicians, job shadow programs, water therapies for special education students and CPR classes.
Here is a full list of proposed programs and services.
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