Orion Twp. to sell the Orion Center

Twp. board votes to enter into negotiations with Lake Orion schools

By Jim Newell
Managing Editor

ORION TWP. — Orion Township is looking to sell the Orion Center and now wants to negotiate a potential sale of the community center to the Lake Orion Community School district.
The Orion Township Board of Trustees voted 5-0 to authorize Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett to work with the township attorney to negotiate a potential purchase agreement with Lake Orion Community Schools administration for the sale of the Orion Center.
The vote came during the board’s meeting on Monday. Trustees Michael J. Flood and Brian Birney were absent from the meeting, with notice. The motion, made by Trustee Matt Pfeiffer, also authorizes Barnett and the township attorney to negotiate with “any other entity interested in purchasing” the Orion Center.
The Orion Township board authorized the $9 million purchase of the Great Lakes Athletic Club in December. Now that the township has the club it no longer needs to have two community centers, board members said.
“In order to free up the capital that we’re going to need to renovate some of that space over there (at GLAC) we’ve talked as a board about selling the Orion Center,” Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett said. “The group we’ve had the most discussion with is the school district. It’s a special building that is in a residential zoned area. It could be used for school purposes.”
Any property sale would go back to the township board for deliberation and approval before a purchase agreement is accepted.
“It is our intention, unless someone wins the lottery and wants to help the township out, it is our intention to slowly start moving the assets from the Orion Center to the Great Lakes Athletic Club,” Barnett said. “The plan moving forward is that we’ve hired a firm called TMP that’s helping us with updating and changing some of the space in the existing Great Lakes Athletic Club to accommodate the things we have in the Orion Center.”
Board members felt that selling the Orion Center was a good move for the township to get additional funding to renovate GLAC, while adding that they were pleased that Lake Orion schools were interested in the property.
“I think it’s fantastic. Obviously, we own the Orion Center and with the purchase of GLAC its purpose is no longer going to be needed, and I think those funds are going to go a long, long way to helping us create the awesome facility that we’ve all dreamed of and talked about and that our community has been asking for for a long, long time,” Pfeiffer said. “I love that our school district is the one that seems most inclined at this moment. I think that would be a great thing for our community.”
“I think that it would be a fantastic fit for the LO schools. And I hope that they prevail in this. I think it’s a great partnership and we’re glad to have them on this end of town. It’s more central and it’s a good opportunity,” said Clerk Penny Shults. “Also, I fully support the sale of property so that we can enhance what we’ve purchased in the Great Lakes Athletic Club.”
The township built the Orion Center as a community center but with the purchase of GLAC, township officials intend to eventually move all activities over to the athletic club facility, which will be transformed into a new community center. Besides fitness facilities, GLAC also has an indoor and outdoor pool, office space, meeting rooms and restaurants for patrons.
The Orion Center is home to the Orion Township Parks and Recreation Department offices, the Orion Area Chamber of Commerce office, the Orion Township Senior Center and a branch of the Orion Township Public Library. The Orion Center also has a small gym for seniors, a banquet room and commercial kitchen, meeting rooms and activity rooms where various clubs meet.
Orion Neighborhood Television (ONTV) has space in the Orion Center but owns its offices so they will not have to move after any potential sale.
“We’ve told our residents that we aren’t going to move programming from the Orion Center until we have a space as good or better at the new facility,” Barnett said. “And again, this may be stressful or emotional for some but it won’t happen, the soonest would be a little more than a year from now.”
Barnett said the process of transitioning programs from the Orion Center to GLAC will likely take until summer 2025.
Barnett added that the township purchased the athletic club without incurring additional debt or raising taxes because it “had the cash on hand” to purchase GLAC. He added that since taking over the Great Lakes Athletic Club it is “revenue positive” for the township.
“We’re going from roughly 20,000 square feet at the Orion Center to 80,000 square feet at the Great Lakes Athletic Club. There will be a rebrand and relaunch,” Barnett said. “This will come before the board again if we are successful in negotiating terms with any purchaser. This is just to start the ball rolling.”

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