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Competing in the private sector

By Staff | Apr 15, 2009

To the editor,

I was saddened to learn that the Rabbit Road Sanibel Fitness Center will be closing its doors at the end of this month. Saddened, but not surprised given the unfair competitive advantage that the Sanibel Recreation Center holds.

My comments on the new center are directed only to the fitness room, not the pools, tennis courts, gymnasium, etc.

The old Rec Center had a few cardio machines and some free weights, not in very good shape. When the new Rec Center was being considered and as it was built, we were told that it would not include a fitness facility more extensive than the original center.

How untrue that turned out to be. The fitness room in the Rec Center is state-of-the-art with brand new ellipticals, treadmills, exercise machines and televisions.

Additionally, the rates charged are substantially below what a for-profit fitness facility could impose. This is, of course, because the Rec Center is heavily subsidized by taxpayer revenues.

This is understandable for the Rec Center activities that don’t compete with private enterprise, but not for the fitness room.

The obvious result has been the exodus of many members from the Sanibel Fitness Center to the fitness facility at the new Rec Center.

The City of Sanibel has poked its nose into the world of private enterprise, without apparent regard for the obvious end result. Many suggested charging an add-on fee for the fitness room at the Rec Center so that the playing field would be a bit more level and the privately-owned Sanibel Fitness Center would have had at least some hope for survival. This didn’t happen.

The island now has one less business and its failure cannot be attributed to the current economy.

The last city council campaign highlighted the need for viable businesses on the island. And yet anyone with any decent reasoning powers could have seen this coming. Empty words.

Does the city have other plans to compete in the private sector? I hope not, because it has shown it has the strength to to be a formidable competitor.

Halsey Spruance

Sanibel