Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Could Set Fee at Gym; Council Considers $2 Charge at Cecil Facility That Has Been Free

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Could Set Fee at Gym; Council Considers $2 Charge at Cecil Facility That Has Been Free

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT GALNOR, The Times-Union

Another frequent sound could soon be added to the clanging of weights and squeaking of basketball sneakers in the Jacksonville-owned gymnasium at Cecil Commerce Center.

The ringing of a cash register.

The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a proposal to begin charging $2 per day or a $120 annual fee for Duval County residents to use the facility. Residents of surrounding counties would pay $150 annually.

The gym has been free to everyone since the city took it over in 1999, shortly after all military personnel had officially moved off Cecil Field, the former naval air station.

"For $2? Yeah, I'll still come," said Felicia Peterson, a Jacksonville resident lifting weights at the gym on Friday. "You can't beat that anywhere else."

Councilman Warren Alvarez, whose rural district includes the gym, asked last summer for the Parks, Recreation and Entertainment Department to look at charging customers. He and some others on the council wanted to cover the $120,000 in salaries the city pays for five employees who work at the gym.

Alvarez also said the city shouldn't be competing with private gyms and shouldn't just offer one free gym on one side of town when there aren't similar facilities elsewhere.

The parks department recommended charging $1 a day, but Alvarez and some other council members wanted to encourage people to sign up for an annual membership. After debating the rate, a council committee settled on a $2 daily charge. Adults or children participating in city-sponsored leagues or events would be exempt from the charges.

Mark Benner, who was squeezing in a quick workout Friday on his lunch break, said he'd be willing to pay the $2, but would think his money would go to something he could see and use.

"I wouldn't expect the Trump workout room, but maybe a better smell and some newer equipment," he said. …

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