The YMCA currently operating in Federal City on the West Bank in Jefferson Parish will cease operations as of March 31st. The Algiers Development District, which handles in partnership the budget and operations of Federal City and is also a public entity of the City of New Orleans, quickly scrambled to find a new company to operate the newly renovated fitness center. The Federal City Fitness Center originally was the gym used for Naval and Marine personnel at the now closed naval base. A $2.5 million construction renovation occurred, and the newly converted gym was reopened in May, 2012. An expansion adding an addition 4,000 square feet as well as the construction of a swimming pool is currently underway in Federal City. The 4,000 square foot expansion is costing $2.2 million with another $900,000 going towards the pool.
Even as a non-profit organization, paying only $1 / year in rent on a 50-year lease, the YMCA did not see the expected growth of membership for its facility in Federal City. The projected amount was approximately 1,000 marines who were stationed near the location, but those memberships simply never happened. Without even having to properly advertising an RFP (Request for Proposal), the Algiers Development District was immediately contacted by no less than 5 interested parties once news got out about the YMCA vacating the facility. Once the requirements for bids were established, only two companies remained in competition for the operations contracto – Franco’s Athletic Club and Ochsner Health Systems which also operates the Elmwood Fitness Center.
Closed door meetings were held with both companies after it was determined that the project did not have to be put out for bids like other state projects. Both companies were able to confidentially present their plans to the committee.
“We had great presentations,” said Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, a member of the district board after the meeting, “We still have questions that need to be resolved.”
A subcommittee was designated to negotiate the terms with the two firms. Federal City’s fitness center gets new operator was announced as Ochsner Health System was then selected to take over operations of the fitness center, according to the website for the Algiers Development District. As the YMCA was operating the building on a week-to-week basis, the resolution of this matter was vital to all involved.
“ADD’s first priority is to the Algiers community and the people of Federal City,” said ADD Chairman, Jeff Arnold. “Our main goal, after the YMCA notified us of their decision and their timeline, was to ensure no disruption in services to the 2,300 members that use the facility daily as a fitness center and, next, to identify an operator with a successful track record and business model. We think this agreement with Ochsner accomplishes both of those needs.”