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Date of Issue: September 27, 2007

New Center, new, higher membership fees

With the new season of seminars and activities about to begin at the new Anna Maria Island Community Center comes a new fee structure for membership and programs.

Although some Islanders accustomed to the old Center may initially experience sticker shock, Center business manager Sandee Pruett notes the new Center has “so much more” to offer.

“The old facility only had an auditorium and meeting room,” she points out. The new two-story building features that plus more: a fitness room, media room, teaching kitchen, theatrical stage, dance studio and outdoor recreation areas.

There are several membership packages available. A “Center” membership includes discounted rates for most classes, free participation in seminars and pickleball games, and free admission to some special events, such as movie nights, bunko games and talent shows.

The Center membership is broken down into four categories: youth, adult, senior and family, and can be purchased at a monthly, six-month or annual rate. Family memberships, however, are only available on an annual basis and cost $300.

A youth, adult or senior monthly membership is $15. Six-month memberships of $90 and $80 are available to adults and seniors, respectively. And annual memberships range in price from $30 for youth, $150 for a adult and $120 for a senior.

Adults may purchase a fitness room membership for $40 a month, $225 for six months, or $425 annually. And a tennis membership is available at a rate of $60-$140 for a single and $75-$190 for couples.

Combination packages are also available on a six-month or annual basis. The “Combo” package includes the Center membership and use of the fitness room, and costs from $300-$550 for a six-month membership and $500-$1,000 for an annual membership.

The “Elite” package includes use of the fitness room, tennis courts and all benefits of a general Center membership. There are no discounts for this membership level, but both six-month and annual rates are offered. A single adult will pay $375 for a six-month membership or $675 annually whereas and adult couple will pay $675 for six months and $1,100 annually for the Elite membership.

Guest passes and day passes are available for $5 and allow the patron to participate in any of the classes at the non-member rate.

Pruett said the increased fees are not an attempt to pay for the construction costs, but rather fund the lighting and general maintenance of the facility. “The building was paid for by our private donors and grants,” she said.

Pruett believes the membership and activity fees are competitive with other recreation centers such as the YMCA and G.T. Bray Park, both located in Bradenton.

For example, the YMCA offers a monthly and annual membership for families, single adults and seniors, couples and teens. Monthly fees range in price from $20 for teens to $72 for families, and annual memberships range from $240 for teens to $864 for families.

The “Y” also issues a “joining fee” of $20 for teens, $75 for adults and $100 for couples and families. The joining fee is applied to the building fund for future equipment and renovations. And as long as the membership remains continuous, this is a one-time fee.

Y membership includes access to all three Bradenton locations and full access to its pool, fitness center, gymnasium, locker rooms and multi-purpose rooms. Members receive discounts and priority registration for programs. Family members receive youth sports, swimming lessons and babysitting up to two hours per day at no additional charge. Included with membership are group classes, fitness center orientations, open basketball, Pilates and yoga classes, teen leaders club, fitness challenges and special events.

Unlike the Center, the YMCA does not offer a seasonal membership. Instead members are given the option of placing a five- to nine-month hold on his/her membership status.

G.T. Bray, which funded by the Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department, also offers recreation membership to its facilities. Membership includes the use of the fitness center, all county pools, tennis courts, racquetball and open gym play.

Membership packages for G.T. Bray are offered on a three-month, six-month or annual basis. The Youth fees cost $75-$225, a single adult pay $100-$300, couples pay $150-$350 and a family of four can join for $200-$500.

The types of classes offered at each facility are similar and the non-member prices are competitive.

Pruett, who also oversees the Center’s adult programming, said she spent the summer soliciting feedback from the community regarding the types of classes that should be offered. “They wanted dance classes, a Zumba fitness class, computer lessons and digital photography courses,” she said. “We have added a new yoga instructor to provide Wednesday classes and more cultural arts classes, like print making and flower arranging. We have more space and rooms to fill.”

For more information about Center membership and programs, call 941-778-1908.

Defending Center fees

Anna Maria Island Community Center Executive Director Pierrette Kelly refutes the “myth” that county government funds the operation of the Island’s center.

“The thought that government is paying too much for our services is a myth,” said Kelly. “The Island Center is a perfect example of public/private partnership - we’re supported by taxpayers. There is no free ride here.”

The new facility and its new fees are an effort to be more “socially responsible” and providing the updated services the community has been promised, she indicated.

“We have addressed security issues in bringing our facility into the 21st Century,” said Kelly. “We promised the community we would make it safe.”

Kelly says it’s the Center’s responsibility to ensure the electricity, air conditioning, ball fields and such are maintained and, she said, she believes it is still up to everyone to “pay their fair share.”

The Center is not yet fully up and running with all the programs it promises to offer, but hopes to be in full swing by the winter holidays. Operating costs for the new building are an unknown, Kelly said, but she pointed out that the previous facility was 10,000 square feet and the new facility is 24,500 square feet.

The increase in membership fees helps with the upkeep of the facility. “We have not increased staff and our salaries are the same. We are not fully funded by the county like G.T. Bray.

“The new building is a result of many people’s commitment to making this a better place,” she said. “In being socially responsible, we’re trying to hold people accountable.”

Although membership has its benefits, Kelly notes the option exists to purchase a day pass.

Kelly said board members had raised the issue of increasing membership fees a long time ago, but that she wasn’t in favor of it then. “We had a musty gym and a single meeting room. Now, with what we have to offer, I am not apologetic about our fees.”

She adds that the Center is unique with a staff that is committed to the community. “We are truly a Center that cares, and that sets our facility apart. Our staff lights up when they see you - members are not just numbers. We want everyone to develop to their best potential, young and old alike, and we believe this is the place to do it.”

The just-completed building is not completely funded, and Kelly said the board is still looking to raise $700,000 from private donors and grants.