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Park board discusses proposed membership merger, fee hikes

NEW ULM – New Ulm Park and Rec board discussed membership fee increases and new facility usage opportunities during its work session Monday.

The biggest changes were to membership fees for the Civic Center and Rec Center. The proposed change would eliminate the separate annual membership for the Civic Center. In exchange, Civic Center access would be included with a Rec Center membership.

With this and costs on the rise, annual memberships for adults and seniors have been increased by 4% and 3% respectively. Three-month memberships have also increased by 3%. This is the first time membership rates have increased in four years.

By far the biggest increase is to youth annual memberships, increasing by 8%. Including tax, the fee goes from $200 to $216.

Board member Carisa Buegler asked why the increase was so high. Park and Rec Director Joey Schugel said they’re looking to keep the youth membership at 50% of what the adult membership costs. This is because kids are unable to use the fitness center or attend classes.

Assistant Director Cheryl Kormann said another reason is due to the addition of Civic Center access.

“We wanted to give kids another activity to do throughout the summer,” she said. “The buildings there, they might as well take advantage of it if they have the rec center membership. Maybe more people will try to skate. It’s a great summer activity when it’s super hot.”

Potential changes brought up by community members were also discussed. An annual track-only membership was proposed by some with disabilities or who cannot pay for full membership. Schugel said this was unlikely to happen, as once people are inside it is not feasible to monitor and stop people from using other items while on a track membership.

A potential school use rate, where schools could rent a fieldhouse court during school hours, was also addressed by Schugel.

“It would be really hard for us to accommodate a high-volume user,” he said. “Doesn’t mean we couldn’t do it at certain times, but we probably couldn’t accommodate phys ed all day long with our multiple uses during the day. Our open gym and scheduled things on other courts.”

A change that received more favorable comments is an auxiliary fee for use of the Community Center Cafetorium floor for dance, cheer, or other arts classes. Schugel said he has received several inquiries from coaches because it can be an open space and no park and rec staff are needed.

“This could open us to more user groups using that space for practices,” he said, “Keeping that in line with the gym court fees to get some additional reservations and rentals at the Community Center.”

Kormann said the changes will become official when approved at the August or September Park and Rec and October City Council meetings.

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