HealthFitness, Inc. will take over management of Cornerstone Aquatics Center effective July 1, 2017.
By Ronni Newton
Management of the Town of West Hartford-owned Cornerstone Aquatics Center will be changing effective July 1, a move that Leisure Services & Social Services Director Helen Rubin-Turco said will result in great service for members and users of the facility as well as improvement in the financial performance of the center.
HealthFitness, a national company based in Minneapolis with an extensive resume of clients and 40 years of experience managing corporate, college, and community aquatics and fitness facilities, will be the new management company. The contract was executed on June 20.
Rubino-Turco said that the current management company, Aquatics for Life (AFL), has managed the town-owned pool at 55 Buena Vista Rd. since the early 1990s, with the same director in place for nearly 20 years.
“The management agreement contract was up. It had no more renewals,” Rubino-Turco said Tuesday, so the town put out an RFP.
Based on the responses to the RFP, she said, three companies were interviewed, including HealthFitness and AFL.
“We chose a different provider. We were impressed with HealthFitness’ overall approach. They incorporate fitness and wellness as well as a robust aquatics operation,” she said. HealthFitness operates a highly-regarded and impressive aquatics center at MIT in Cambridge, MA, Rubino-Turco said.
“The overall approach was different, and the proposed budget was realistic,” she said. Under the existing management, the facility has not been meeting its operating costs and the hope is that the expanded programming will have an impact.
West Hartford Director of Finance Peter Privitera was also involved in the thorough review process and said he was impressed with HealthFitness’ approach. In a news release announcing the management change he said, “We believe the choice we made will result in great service and an improved financial performance.”
Rubino-Turco said that the town appreciates all that the current provider has done of the years, but at the same time needs to be fiscally prudent and “make sure that the taxpayers’ best interests are being met.”
HealthFitness will maintain the current operating hours for the pool, and is in the process of developing the schedule for aquatics, fitness, and wellness programs, including summer swim lessons at the indoor pool.
The new company would like to hire as many of the existing lifeguards and other staff members as possible.
“I think HealthFitness was waiting until they had the signed agreement. Now that it has been made official, it will be all systems go,” Rubino-Turco said. HealthFitness will be considering all current employees for re-employment, she said, and urged them to apply on the company’s website.
“Transitions can be bumpy and now we’re all set,” Rubino-Turco said.
The goal will be to reinstate the swim lessons – a core operation of the pool and important program to the town – as soon as instructors can be hired. “We hope existing instructors will apply so they can continue,” she said. The hope is that popular classes, such as the Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program, can continue without interruption.
“HealthFitness is very excited to bring our services to the Cornerstone Aquatics Center,” James Aranowski, HealthFitness’ senior director of Program Management & Engagement said in a statement. “We look forward to growing and sustaining membership, and helping individuals enhance their level of physical activity and pursue personal health and well-being goals.”
New schedules should be released shortly.
Fees for use of the pools are set by the West Hartford Town Council, and Rubino-Turco said there will not be any changes implemented any time soon.
She did say that the town will be working with HealthFitness to “streamline the membership options and offer more perks.” Over the next four or five months, she said, the membership structure will be overhauled and simplified and then a proposal will be submitted to the Town Council for approval.
Current membership contracts will be honored at Cornerstone, regardless of the billing cycle, Rubino-Turco said. Members will need to check in at Cornerstone anytime after July 1 and will be given their new membership cards and are encouraged to register online through the town’s website to verify their membership status.
“We look forward to communicating with the membership as soon as we receive the full list and in the meantime we are reaching out as best we can,” Rubino-Turco said.
A representative from the town’s Leisure Services department will continue to be stationed in the Cornerstone lobby at various times during the next two weeks to assist members with re-registering and to respond to questions.
Programs or swim lessons that are scheduled with AFL and run beyond June 30 will no longer be in place, and anyone enrolled in those programs will need to contact AFL for reimbursement.
Cornerstone members are automatically entitled to free use of West Hartford’s four outdoor pools, which open for the season June 24, and Rubino-Turco said that the perk will continue. In the past a sticker was placed on the Cornerstone card to allow for outdoor pool use, but due to the change of management being in progress as the pools are opening for the season, a separate Cornerstone Aquatics summer pool card will be issued and can be picked up at Town Hall.
Rubino-Turco said that unrelated to the management change the town will be undertaking some renovations at Cornerstone this summer that should be welcomed by users, repurposing an old and unused locker room for hand-capped accessible changing facilities.
The initial contract with HealthFitness is two years, with the possibility for renewals. “We are confident it will be successful,” Rubino-Turco said.
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