Facility would house senior, teen, community, fitness programs
By Jim Newell
ORION TWP. — Orion Township government could be getting into the fitness business, or more appropriately the community center business.
The board of trustees on Monday voted unanimously to authorize Supervisor Chris Barnett and township attorney Dan Kelly to negotiate an asset purchase agreement to put a bid on the Great Lakes Athletic Club, 3800 Baldwin Rd.
If the township is successful in purchasing the athletic club, it would become a fitness and community center, with all of the programs and departments currently at the Orion Center on Joslyn Road moving to the new facility, said township Supervisor Chris Barnett.
GLAC is currently in receivership, Barnett said.
“So far where we’re at in the process is that we’ve expressed interest. A receiver has been appointed by the court and attorney Dan Kelly and myself have been meeting with and working with the receiver. We know that there are other (potential buyers), at least two, and maybe three other interested groups,” Barnett said. “We have submitted a letter of intent. The next step would be to submit an asset purchase agreement.”
Barnett said the township would look to purchase the athletic club without a tax increase or millage to residents.
Funding sources could include up to $2.2 million from the parks and recreation fund balance, $6 million from the township’s general fund balance, $1.2 million from the township’s host fee fund balance and a $500,000 senior grant for a total of $9.9 million.
The township would also look into grant opportunities and possibly lease or sell the Orion Center on Joslyn Road to help pay for the proposed purchase. “We know that there’s value in the Orion Center building,” Barnett said.
The township estimated that if it chose to build a new facility it would cost more than $26 million for land acquisition, construction and other fees.
The Great Lakes Athletic Club is a nearly 80,000 square foot facility and the asking price is around $8 million.
“Not very often in public service or even in the business world do you get an opportunity where you can scratch the itch of a lot of your stakeholders and do it for a fraction of the cost of what it would be,” Barnett said. “Our window is closing on available property in the township to do something like this unless we take away existing outdoor recreation space.”
A community and fitness center would address a need that Orion Township residents have overwhelmingly said they want in the township community surveys and the parks and recreation department’s five-year master plan update said Barnett and parks and recreation Director Aaron Whatley.
“Every five years we canvass the community. We reevaluate the trends and the direction we’re going,” Whatley said. “Recurring themes: indoor winter activities, swimming pool, senior activities, family-friendly programs, affordable programming. These are all things the community wants, and needs.”
“The more we have dug in, the more we have researched the better this has looked. We didn’t put numbers about revenue on the screen because we wanted to be careful about that. But I can tell you in year one that we will make money. This will be a profit center for the township,” Barnett said. “The revenue from this could replace a millage, potentially. And it could provide a lot of opportunities that the residents have been asking us to do.”
Free services would include senior and youth activities, a teen center, special events, food distribution, emergency services as well as an election location.
Paid services could include memberships, fitness classes, indoor athletic leagues, lease agreements and drop-in programs such as swimming, basketball, volleyball and pickleball.
Whatley said memberships would be more affordable than most fitness centers, estimating that the township would charge $40-$50 per month for a family of four.
“One of the key pieces that we wanted to make clear was that do we have a membership in place to do this,” said Parks & Recreation programmer Chelsie Petrusha
Petrusha said the Great Lakes Athletic Club currently has more than 4,000 members and the township would hope to retain some of those members. The township currently has 460 exercise room members at the Orion Center, offering a low-rate monthly fee for senior center members.
“We would be able to hopefully keep all of those members in the move over to this new facility,” Petrusha said. “We have over 3,100 Orion Center members, so that’s also something huge for us, knowing that we could potentially get all of those people into a new, bigger facility.”
The new facility would be open to people outside of Orion Township, and the township would hope to draw customers from surrounding areas.
“In a 10-mile radius there’s over 250,000 households, so we’re hopeful that we’re going to be able to reach a lot of people that they currently cannot reach,” Petrusha said.
The Orion Township Board of Trustees meets at 7 p.m. the first and third Mondays of the month at the Orion Twp. Municipal Complex.