BI purchase of BAC working out so far

If you’re a member of the Bainbridge Athletic Club there’s no need to worry.

If, and it’s still an if, the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Parks and Recreation District buys the club, executive director Terry Lande hopes to retain all 1,000 of you as members.

He hopes to keep the fee structure the same. New members won’t have to pay an initiation fee since they already pay taxes to the district. Similar to the BI Aquatic Center, the public can pay a daily use or something like a 20-use fee or rent part of the facility. Scholarships will be available for low-income folks.

“It’s not a freebie,” Lande said. “Just like the pool we’ve got costs to cover.”

The district is looking at buying the facility for $13.15 million. Two separate appraisers reported on the BAC, with one looking at the land and building coming up with an $8.725 million figure, with the business itself valued at $4.4 million, for a total of $13.25 million. The business costs are for the memberships, workout equipment, furniture computers, etc.

Lande said most of the opposition of the purchase has come from BAC members afraid of being pushed out by a rush of public users. But Lande said that will be kept under control.

He said they will continue to work on parking issues, but that a traffic study was done in 2001 when BAC had 2,300 members, so it should be less of a problem than it was then. He did say COVID-19 has brought more golfers to neighboring Meadowmeer, and the restaurant there also is bringing in traffic. “We’ll figure out a way to make this work,” he said of parking.

Lande said what people need to realize is the owner is retiring and wanted to sell to someone local. “She didn’t want to sell it to off-islanders,” he said.

Lande said different conglomerates had approached her about turning it into a resort, which would have ousted all locals. “If we don’t buy it someone else is going to,” he said.

Some complained about the non-disclosure agreement, but Lande said that is common in real estate to protect the seller in case the deal doesn’t go through. Other critics have asked why the hurry in making a deal. Lande said the decision is not being made hastily. He said the public made it known years ago in a survey that it would like to have indoor facilities. “This isn’t out of the blue,” he said.

Others have said the indoor facility was supposed to be built at Sakai Park. But Lande said that’s not true. “Voters wanted it saved from development,” he said, adding they wanted a park near downtown. “That’s still happening.”

After the purchase of Sakai was approved by voters, then it was decided indoor facilities could be part of that. But since that would cost $20 to $70 million, depending on the magnitude of that project, the park district is thinking buying BAC is a better deal for taxpayers. And, it is available now, instead of the public having to wait years for construction.

The public still gets to decide what will happen at Sakai, which they purchased for $6 million in 2015.

The 53,000-square-foot BAC facilities include indoor sports courts (tennis, basketball, pickleball); multiple fitness areas for strength and cardio with equipment; a multi-lane outdoor swimming pool; multi-purpose activity rooms; administrative office space; and parking.

Critics also have said that taxpayers would have to foot the bill if the district’s plan fails. Lande said the district then could just sell it themselves to recoup the money. But Lande doesn’t think it will fail. They have an interest-only loan for the first five years. “We’re confident with where this is going,” he said, adding they think they will generate an income and have “a nice nest egg for following years.” The district is looking at a 2 percent loan. “You can’t get money that cheaply,” he said.

As for concerns about water and septic, Lande said those are comments made by folks who just want to derail the project. “The bottom line is it’s going to have the same use, just a different owner,” Lande said.

The lobby includes furniture and a big-screen TV.

The lobby includes furniture and a big-screen TV.

The building is larger than it looks from the outside.

The building is larger than it looks from the outside.