Mayor: Rec center talks reach ‘apparent conclusion’

Published 10:30 am Friday, June 24, 2016

The city of Austin and the YMCA appear to be at a stalemate in talks on the proposed $35 million Austin Community Recreation Center.

Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm and the city issued a statement Friday morning saying the talks have concluded after the YMCA board voted to table a proposed lease agreement.

“We wish them well and terribly regret that the promise of a Community Recreation Center has come to an apparent conclusion given the YMCA’s board actions,” Stiehm wrote.

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After the proposals were tabled at a closed Wednesday meeting, YMCA Executive Director Tedd Maxfield said Thursday that the parties would head back into negotiations.

“The Y is hopeful that we can reach an agreement that satisfies both the city and the Y,” he said.

However, the mayor’s statement doesn’t make any mention of continuing discussions, and city leaders declined further comment Friday morning.

“To unravel an agreement that had over 25 specific drafts, years of work and over five months of specific work on the agreement itself is wholly unanticipated, unprecedented and quite frankly shocking,” the state reads.

The statement references many hours of prior negotiations to find a compromise on purchase and lease agreements, which Stiehm writes was endorsed by Vision 2020 and YMCA representatives before the Austin City Council approved it with a 5-2 vote on June 6.

“Throughout this process the City took a collaborative approach that recognized the YMCA was responsible for the operations of the facility,” the statement reads. “However, the City also had to protect the public access portions of the building to ensure it meet the Vision 2020 mission statement goals for the recreations center that it be “a welcoming place for everyone” (not just YMCA members) and ‘affordable.’”

Despite council approval, the Y board still needed to approve the plans before anything could move forward.

Maxfield and city leaders declined to comment on what issues caused the board to table the plan for more negotiations.

However, the YMCA and city officials were at odds over day pass costs and limitations for the rec center at previous Austin City Council and Vision 2020 meetings, and Stiehm at one point said talks had reached an impasse. The YMCA had proposed $12.50 day passes with unlimited uses but then negotiated that down to $8 day passes.

The Austin Community Recreation Center has been one of Vision 2020’s most-discussed projects.

Plans calls to build a city-owned rec center, which would be operated by the Y, at the downtown Austin Municipal Plant site.

The facility would feature a new YMCA with an aquatic center, gyms, a gymnastics facility, workout rooms and a running track along with public spaces like an indoor playground, a Youth Activity Center and meeting rooms.