The Lucas County Recreation Center apparently will remain in county hands, but the commissioners still are trying to figure out who will run it.
The commissioners received a proposal by county staffers yesterday that recommended having another public entity like a city or village take over management of the 130-acre facility in Maumee that has struggled for an identity since losing the Mud Hens and closing its swimming pool in the last few years.
Selling the site is not an option that will be explored. At one point, Maumee officials proposed the possibility that the Rec Center be sold so the city could gain some more land for housing. Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak rejected that and said she thinks county residents want to maintain ownership of the property.
Ms. Wozniak wants the county to continue managing the Rec Center and urged that someone be hired who would be dedicated to making the operation self-sustaining.
"There is just no question that this place can be alive and well," Ms. Wozniak said.
Ms. Wozniak has been consistent in her support for keeping the Rec Center operating for people participating in such things as baseball and softball leagues, and handball.
The Recreation Center costs the county more than it takes in, but losses are declining. In 2003, expenses exceeded revenue by $607,000, said Jim Shaw, who oversees the Rec Center for the county. So far in 2004, revenue is $58,000 behind expenses.
Harry Barlos, president of the commissioners, said he wants to explore having the site managed by an entity like the SeaGate Convention Centre or the Greater Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"For the Rec Center, I don't think it's a stretch" that it creates tourism, he said.
Commissioner Maggie Thurber said she's not ready to express an opinion about what she thinks is the best option. She instructed staff members to contact organizations that manage recreation sites for governmental entities to see what they have to offer and how much it would cost.
She said moves have been made at the Recreation Center to make it more efficient, but she isn't sure that government is the best way to manage such sites.
"Government does not market functions very effectively," she said. "We usually provide support for entities that do that marketing."
Whether the county continues to manage the site or contracts with another organization to do it, Mr. Barlos said a multimillion- dollar investment will have to be made at the Rec Center to make it a viable operation. He said it will take more than installing air conditioning at the two rec halls and making Ned Skeldon Stadium comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said those improvements wouldn't be noticeable to most people.
"If we're going to do this, let's do it right," he said. "If not, we should just move away. Because if we don't it's not fair to the current users. They don't know if we're going to be there five years from now. The place looks worn out. It's going to be a huge financial commitment."
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