EagleHerald/John Liesveld
These cold and quiet swings in the middle of winter outside Duer Gym are not likely to see many more occupants as the nearly 90-year-old recreational facility is slated for closure this spring by the Parks & Recreation Department. 
EagleHerald/John Liesveld

These cold and quiet swings in the middle of winter outside Duer Gym are not likely to see many more occupants as the nearly 90-year-old recreational facility is slated for closure this spring by the Parks & Recreation Department. 

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MARINETTE — The City of Marinette Parks & Recreation Department operates several satellite facilities throughout the city that accommodate residents of all ages through programs that promote active lifestyles, fun and community involvement.  As a way to trim budgets and take full advantage of the new Community REC Center, discussion about the fate of one of those satellite facilities continues to surface as an item on the monthly Parks & Recreation Committee meeting agenda.     

In the last few months the Parks & Recreation Department began work on a plan to eventually, and permanently, close Duer Gym and relocate all existing Duer Gym programs and activities to other facilities in Marinette. During the February meeting of the Parks & Recreation Committee Meeting, committee members narrowed the date for that closure. 

“I think Memorial Day (2020) is a doable date,” said Executive Director of Recreation & Events Gavin Scray. “Or sometime in late spring.”  

The historic Duer Gym on the city’s northwest side hosts programs like adult volleyball and basketball programs, a bend and stretch program and others. However, constructed in the 1930s, the building’s aged attrition introduces increased maintenance and other budgetary expenses. In addition, a much needed and extensive roof repair, should the building remain open, will only add to those expenses. 

 Scray presented Duer Gym’s 2019 annual estimated operating costs to the committee in October. It showed expenses for utilities alone approximated $4,896 for the building. In addition to the various program expenses (volleyball, basketball and the a bend and stretch program), the total expenses for the gym in 2019 hovered around $12,306. With revenues from those same programs reaching only $3,091 for the year, Scray expected a cost recovery of only 25.18%.   

According to Alderman and committee member, closing the building in the spring allows for proper maintenance and utility preparations before next winter rolls around. The city owns and operates that building and pays for its utility and maintenance costs. So, until such time that the city relinquishes that ownership, payment of those costs must continue. For that reason, it makes fiscal sense to committee members to close the building and eliminate those costs. 

“We want to close it and we need to pick a date,” Polzin said. “Springtime is a good time to … cap off the water, clean it out and get it ready to be vacant.”

With an over $17 million investment in the barely year-old REC Center, city and Parks & Recreation officials aim to acquire the best return on that dollar; closing Duer works into that plan. 

The REC Center serves as a centralized facility with the capacity to host multiple recreational programs, activities and other events. In short, the Center’s ability to absorb many of the existing programs currently hosted at some of the aging satellite facilities like Duer Gym, provide one way to trim budgets and take advantage of the state-of-the-art REC Center.

DUER PROGRAM TANSITIONS

In order to hit a spring closure date for Duer, the transition process of existing Duer programs to other locations nears final measures. Scray updated committee members during the February meeting regarding those program transitions. 

The three primary programs when it comes to Duer Gym revenue are an adult volleyball league, a men’s basketball program and a “bend and stretch program.” 

“The Bend and Stretch exercise class will have no issue moving to the REC Center,” Scray said. “For the volleyball and basketball leagues, we don’t have a wood floor at the REC Center, but officials at (River Cities Community Pool) are definitely willing to accommodate those (leagues).”

Scray explained that he had discussed with other area facilities, like River Cities Community Pool, whether Recreation Department programs might potentially utilize courts and other amenities, or the possibility of integrating the department basketball or volleyball programming with programming already offered at those other facilities. 

“It sounds like they are very open and interested in that (arrangement),” Scray said. “There are options out there.” 

Finally, Scray pointed out that Duer Gym also maintains programs that operate without regularity or only intermittently. Such programs might include Special Olympic events or miscellaneous birthday parties. Hosting such events at the REC Center or other location can easily be implemented according to Scray. 

“I think in both of those cases, if those individuals approached the REC Center we would be able to accommodate (those programs),” Scray said.   

Already, the annual Summer Playground program, that once operated at three main locations in Marinette, including Duer Gym, relocated to the REC Center and evolved into the more successful Summer Camp program. Like the Summer Playground program, the REC Center’s Summer Camp serves area youth by offering a safe location for supervised and organized recreation during the summer months.  After consolidation of the Summer Playground into the REC Center’s Summer Camp program, Assistant Recreation Director Adrienne Lacy reported that annual attendance tripled.  

For now, no solid date exists for closure. However, the day is approaching. The committee elected to leave it up to Recreation Department officials who possess a better concept how to coordinate closure with successful transition of existing Duer programs. 

“What I would like to do is see us set a date (for Duer Gym closure),” Polzin said. “Probably plan to close (the building) around what make sense for a transition from basketball and summer programs … shut it down and move on.”