Life Fitness Center sale among options being discussed to help offset pandemic revenue losses

As Bettendorf city leaders confront revenue shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Life Fitness Center appears to have a big "sell me" target on its back.

In his presentation to alderman Tuesday (4/21), City Finance Director Jason Schadt listed "Divest of Loss Generating Enterprises" as one of the possible short-term objectives to trim city expenses.

And, in discussions earlier this month, city officials had a more specific phrase for "loss generating enterprises" – close and sell the Life Fitness Center.

The fitness facility is one of the city's "enterprise funds" for which it separately tracks their financial performance in the budget. Others enterprise funds include Palmer Hills Golf Course, the Family Museum and the municipal pool, Splash Landing.

All require annual financial support from the city to supplement user fees in order to break even.

During the past fiscal year, the fitness center was far from the largest non-essential service funded by the city.

The Family Museum needed a $1.4-million infusion of city funds to break even during fiscal 2019, while the golf course needed $378,000, and Splash Landing $327,000. The fitness center received $363,000 in city support during fiscal 2019, but that deficit would have been much lower had the nearly 400 city employees who use the facility paid for membership.

The golf course funded 90 percent of its operating budget in fiscal 2019, the LFC funded 67 percent of its operations, the pool 61 percent and the Family Museum was able to fund only 54 percent of its operating costs.

Making the fitness center even more of a target is the city's recent proposal to replace the LFC, the city community center on State Street and the pool with a new $37-million consolidated facility in Middle Park.

City officials have discussed holding a bond referendum to raise taxes to pay for the combined amenity. However, the pandemic and its impact on city finances and city residents has made such a move unlikely in the near future.

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