MANATEE -- When Leslie Gouldsby was looking for a gym to join, access to indoor basketball courts and a swimming pool attracted the Bradenton resident to G.T. Bray Recreation Center.
"I like the ability to have the pool and the smaller gym," said Gouldsby, who joined the Manatee County facility two months ago.
Now Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department is hoping to make the nearly 5-year-old recreation center accessible to more people by decreasing monthly memberships to $20 and the daily guest pass fee to $3.
The Manatee County Commission could approve the lower membership rate Tuesday. If approved, new rates could take effect in September.
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"We really wanted to have a membership for everyone," said Jeff Lightburne, G.T. Bray Recreation Center fitness and wellness supervisor. "Right now, it is really only affordable for those who can afford it. We should offer a membership that is cheap to the community. We are here to offer community health for everyone that's affordable."
The new fee will "streamline the fee schedule, allowing removal of several individual monthly fees that are over $20/month and daily fees over $3," according to agenda materials.
"It would be great," Gouldsby said of the proposed fee reduction. "They'd get higher membership."
With the success of the Silver Sneakers program
for seniors, Lightburne said they hope lower rates will attract residents who "would like affordable services but can't find it."
Lightburne said current membership is mostly seniors.
"Our fees are all over the place so $20 is just simplifying it and making it affordable," he said.
Agenda materials indicate the county's "intent is not to compete with private organizations and neighboring communities, but to provide access and services at a cost affordable to all, thereby, affording the opportunity for more citizens to enjoy our facility and attract the 18-50 year old demographic, including millennials."
Lower membership rates aren't in a response to declining memberships, Lightburne said.
"We've noticed an increase in membership," he said. "We have the seniors and we want to attract the families."
Despite potentially decreasing the membership rates by as much as 50 percent for an individual membership, Lightburne said he expects the increase in membership to allow the center to make what they've been making at the current rates.
"We will make up the difference in volume," he said.
When Bradenton resident Don Barry joined the G.T. Bray Recreation Center two and a half weeks ago, he said he liked being able to pay month to month or even by the day.
"It would be good," Barry said of the proposed membership rate decrease. "I would be on board. I'd get my wife involved, too."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024.
Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.