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East County Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 5 years ago

Tennis Center rates debated

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The Longboat Key Town Commission is debating whether to charge higher membership rates for those Longboat Key Public Tennis Center members who live off the Key.

In September, commissioners were given statistics that revealed 310 members reside on Longboat Key; 16 are Longboat Key renters; 40 members live in Sarasota; 15 live in Bradenton or Cortez; and 11 live on Anna Maria Island (see pie chart).

The numbers have commissioners and town staff mulling membership price increases for those who don’t live here.

“When we approved the budget this summer, we had discussions about the facility, memberships and residents versus non-residents,” Vice Mayor David Brenner said at the commission’s Nov. 12 regular workshop. “While roughly 80% of our membership resides on the Key, the rest come off the Key.”

Although rates have not changed yet, staff has proposed a 5.5% increase in membership rates, starting in January, for both single and family memberships.

Currently, it costs $750 for an annual family membership and $550 for an annual single membership. Those rates, as well as winter rates, will rise slightly when the increase takes effect in January.

But commissioners wondered whether rates should be raised more for non-residents.

“There’s a strong feeling we shouldn’t be subsidizing non-residents who use our facility,” Brenner said.

Tennis Center Manager Kay Thayer, though, told the commissioners and the Longboat Observer she is “strongly against” raising the rates further for non-residents. Thayer also said she hasn’t heard members who are Key residents complaining that non-Key residents pay the same fees.

“I’m concerned about the differentiation and charging non-Key residents more,” Thayer said. “I don’t think it will go over well.”

Commissioner Terry Gans suggested Longboaters should have an advantage, however slight that may be, over non-Key residents.

Commissioner Jack Duncan, though, pondered if the changes will help the tennis center.

“The risk of losing a longtime member for a slight increase is not worth it,” Duncan said.

In the end, Gans agreed with Duncan.

“This center was built for the Key, but if others enjoy it, so be it,” Gans said. “If self-sustainability of the center works out, that’s fine. If it doesn’t, we will know in another year whether we need to make changes.”

Commissioners decided to move forward with the 5.5% across-the-board price increase, but to hold off on charging more for non-members.

Town Manager Dave Bullock said the price increases are part of his goal to make the tennis center a fully funded operation.

“We are breaking even right now,” Bullock said.

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