Committee ponders options for gymnastics
The Fairfield City Council’s property committee met Thursday to discuss what to do with the future of the gymnastics and trampoline program at the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center.
In attendance at the meeting were about 10 gymnasts and their parents, who came to show their support for the program and to urge the committee not to let it be shut down.
Participants in the gymnastics and trampoline program practice in two rooms in the rec center. The trampoline, one set of uneven bars and the rings are housed in a racquetball court on the first floor, while all the other equipment is in a room formerly used for aerobics on the top floor. A recent review by the city’s insurance company found there was not enough space for all the activities undertaken in the racquetball court, and asked the city to rectify this issue.
The insurance review has called into question the future of the gymnastics and trampoline program. The property committee discussed how the city should respond to the letter and also what the city should do to create a facility large enough to host all the gymnastics and trampoline equipment.
City administrator Kevin Flanagan said the insurance review has put the city in a tough spot. He said the worst-case scenario is the insurance provider will be unwilling to pay for an accident in the racquetball court. Committee member John Revolinski asked Flanagan why the city couldn’t evaluate the safety of the gymnastics room by itself. Flanagan recommended getting a second opinion from Iowa Community Assurance Pool. Even then, he was not completely comfortable relying on a second opinion as a judge of the city’s liability and the insurance company’s willingness to pay in case of an accident.
“Even if a second opinion says it’s OK, they’re not the insurance adjuster,” he said.
The committee members talked about the possibility of moving the gymnastics equipment to an existing building in town, particularly in one of the school buildings. City clerk Joy Messer said the club has tried to get space in Lincoln Center but the district does not want to house the program.
Committee member Doug Flournoy suggested that instead of asking the school to house the equipment in one of its buildings, it could simply sponsor the program. That way, he said, the club would be covered by the school’s insurance.
Members of the audience asked the committee if the program could move to the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center. Wulfekuhle said he had already talked to the center’s director, Rustin Lippincott, and Lippincott was willing to host gymnastics events but was not willing to give the club a permanent space to practice.
Wulfekuhle said he removed nearly all of the gymnastics equipment from the racquetball room, leaving only the trampoline behind. Revolinski said it would be a good idea to see if ICAP would approve of the room in its current configuration now that it has changed. The problem that creates is that the older girls who need to use the set of uneven bars, and the boys who use the rings, both of which are in the racquetball court, now have nowhere to practice.
Flanagan said the city had put together a proposal for a gymnastics building that would be attached to the rec center. Fairfield Park and Rec director Derik Wulfekuhle said the building would cost between $150,000 and $200,000. Flanagan said the city could contribute $50,000 or perhaps up to $80,000. Messer said she has looked into grants for the building and thus far has found only one, a $10,000 grant from General Mills. Wulfekuhle said gymnastics coach Jeff Ide has seen the proposal and he agrees it would be big enough to house all the equipment he uses.
Michelle Rauscher’s daughter, Madalyn, is a freshman in high school and has been on the gymnastics team for a year. Rauscher said it took her daughter has tried several extracurricular activities and has found gymnastics and trampoline to be her calling.
“It’s sad to see this could happen to the program,” Rauscher said at the meeting.
Madalyn advanced rapidly in the program and was able to compete with kids who had been practicing for many years. Last year, she was the national champion in the vault.
Rauscher said the gymnastics program needs its own building because the current facilities are not adequate. Because of her height, it’s dangerous for Madalyn to practice on some of the equipment on the top floor of the rec center because she comes close to hitting the ceiling.
Janan Twohill’s son, Drew, is in the program, as are two of Julie Silvers’s children. Twohill and Silvers attending Thursday’s meeting to show their support for the program.
Silvers said gymnastics and trampoline go hand-in-hand and that one cannot be shutdown without affecting the other.
“They get a lot of their gymnastic techniques from the trampoline,” she said. “The kids get in a harness when they do flips on the trampoline.”
Twohill and Silvers said the program is the main extracurricular activity for many children. They said several kids practice at the rec center five nights per week.
The gymnastics and trampoline program will be on the city council’s agenda for its meeting Jan. 27.