By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — A potential merger between the City-County Athletic Complex (CCAC) in Warsaw and the Parkview YMCA will be voted on by CCAC’s board Nov. 22.
The merger was first brought up at the July Kosciusko County Convention, Recreation & Visitor Commission (KCCRVC) meeting when Karl Swihart, who served as CCAC executive director at that time, told the commission that a multi-sport indoor facility would generate approximately $16,000 in profit per month on top of loan payments.
The CCAC is a private not-for-profit sports facility located at 3215 W. Old Road 30.
The revenue generated by an indoor facility would be a huge asset for the CCAC, which has struggled financially over the years.
The concept design for a new indoor facility can be seen on the CCAC website and would hold two full size softball fields as well as a full size soccer field.
“But do I think we can acquire that on our own with grants and support from the community? I really don’t. I think the only way to do that would be to merge with the YMCA where they could potentially help us with that project,” Swihart said at that time.
One area of concern Swihart voiced was whether or not CCAC would continue being operated in the way it was intended if the merger took place.
Mike Hagy, the new executive director at CCAC, Josh Finch, CCAC board president, and Brandon Keaffaber, previous CCAC board president, attended the KCCRVC meeting Wednesday, Nov. 10, to request $37,000 for operational expenses.
Commission members said they are in support of the $37,000 grant but would not be in favor of the grant if the merger goes forward. The grant was approved with the contingency that the money would not be issued until the outcome of the merger has been determined.
“I personally think it’s not the time to give up the ship,” said KCCRVC Secretary Jo Paczkowski.
She said she is most concerned about the value of the land and that it would be absorbed by the YMCA if the merger goes through.
“It frightens me to death, the merger idea,” Paczkowski said.
KCCRVC member Mark Skibowski, who serves on the CCAC board, said the facility suffered from tournament cancellations in 2019 due to weather and in 2020 due to COVID.
“The cycle is in the winter the CCAC draws on its line of credit to get through the winter and then in the spring when tournament season kicks off and the dollars start coming in, they pay the line of credit off and continue to operate,” Skibowski said.
However, because of cancellations and loss of revenue in 2019 and 2020, CCAC wasn’t able to repay the line of credit and instead had to extend it.
Skibowski proposed that the commission increase funding for CCAC moving forward.
In the past, the commission has granted CCAC $40,000 per year for operational expenses. Skibowski said the commission can expect Hagy to ask for more than the standard $40,000 in 2022.
“Is that $60,000? Is that $70,000? I don’t know the right number for that. I just know it needs to be more than $40,000 per year,” Skibowski said. “I think the CCAC does great things for our community. It’s been an independent entity for a long period of time and I wish that I had, a year ago, been a little more ‘hey, we need to bump up the dollars here that we’re contributing’, but I didn’t … so I’m doing that now.”
Paczkowski pointed out that the CCAC is the biggest tourism draw for the county.
Hagy said they calculated that during their three busy months over the summer, 13,000 people came through CCAC and they estimated that around 70 percent stayed at area hotels.
Finch said CCAC is at a crossroads and has been for about a year.
“We were limping by, getting close to breaking even, but usually in the red 10, 15, 20 thousand dollars leading up to 2019 which, if you guys remember, more or less every tournament we had got rained out,” Finch said. “Needless to say, we decided to look around for some additional resources and that kind of landed us with the YMCA. We didn’t have a choice. We were going to dig ourselves into a hole that we probably wouldn’t be able to dig ourselves out of.”
Finch pointed out that most other parks in the state are municipally owned, while CCAC is not. With a municipally owned park, local taxpayer money is supplementing a lot of that, Finch said, and those parks can generally afford to have a tournament rained out or a COVID year.
Finch and Keaffaber said although things are still dire, there is a new energy with Hagy as executive director, adding that although Swihart did a great job, “there’s always a new energy when new blood comes in.”
Hagy told the commission he’s brainstorming constantly.
“We’re trying to do our part,” Hagy said. This includes looking into additional grant opportunities and other options for generating revenue.
He announced that CCAC has been awarded three tournaments for next year.
“My big thing that I’ve tried to harp is more community involvement from CCAC. The more I talk to people, in reaching out to people about the CCAC, it’s been a negative community involvement,” Hagy said. “They seem to think CCAC has been nothing more than a weekend tournament event facility. I want to change that perception. I want Kosciusko County people to be involved. I want to be involved in helping them. I think community involvement will help change the light of how they look at us and be more willing to help us, so that’s my goal.”
CCAC held a Trunk or Treat event last month, with about 300 children attending. Hagy said their next goal is to host an Easter egg hunt at the park for the community.
Hagy said he came in late in the potential YMCA merger process and “it’s hard to sell ideas in a short period of time on what ifs and hopes.”
“I”m at the mercy of the board. I don’t have a vote,” Hagy said.
The commission agreed to send a letter to the CCAC board to notify them that KCCRVC is committed to financial support for the facility.