MIDDLETOWN, NJ – The Middletown Swim and Tennis Club will not be operated by the Township in 2012 as program fees have not covered its operating budget in recent years. Accordingly, Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante is recommending that the facility remain closed for the 2012 season, unless another entity can soon be identified to operate the club.
“Unfortunately, rising costs, declining membership, declining revenues, an aging facility, and staff reductions mean that it is no longer economically viable for the Township to continue to operate the facility,” Mercantante said. “The Township has been obligated to cover revenue shortfalls from its regular operating budget,” Mercantante explained, “and it cannot afford to do so any longer.”
“It is unrealistic to expect the Township Committee to ask taxpayers to help support a membership-driven facility, hoping that it will become self-sustaining again,” Mayor Tony Fiore continued.
The Township purchased the 10-acre aquatic facility from a private owner in 1997 for $1.225 million. The facility, located at the corner of Harmony and Old Country Road, has 4 swimming pools, 55 cabanas, 330 bathhouses, five tennis courts, a playground, snack bar and basketball, shuffleboard, bocce and handball courts.
The club, which is funded through membership and program fees, is managed through a utility that allows the facility to operate outside of the municipal budget. Revenues were to cover the purchase, operating costs and improvements. In the early years, the club largely paid for itself as anticipated. Since the national recession began in 2008, membership has declined and revenues are not covering operating and debt costs.
“No decision has been reached as to what to do with the facility in the long-term,” Mercantante said.
He added that the facility’s age is another factor in its fate. The club, which is more than 50 years old, will continue to need repairs and capital upgrades in the years to come. There are not sufficient revenues to support major improvement projects, Mercantante said.
“We realize that if the club does not open it will be a sad day for many families in the Township. We also realize it will be disruptive to some people’s summer plans, but the Township cannot afford to run the club in the red for another season,” Mercantante said. “We are, however, looking at options that would allow the club to re-open with a different operator and we are also looking at options to allow the main pool to be opened so that the award-winning swim team can stay together for another season,” he said.
“During these tough economic times everything must always be on the table. The decision not operate the swim club is one that we take very seriously. However, our obligation to provide core and essential governmental services cannot be compromised,” Mayor Fiore said.