County, Y reps discuss possible sauna for rec center

January 19, 2013

As county commissioners gear up to turn dirt on the voter-approved recreation center, they are considering two new issues: whether to allow the YMCA to manage the construction and whether to add a sauna.

The first issue will likely get the court’s approval; the second one is still being considered.

Commissioners held a specially called meeting Tuesday with representatives of the YMCA, as well as Granbury School Board President Micky Shearon and Granbury School Superintendent Jim Largent.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Dick Roan and Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Berry plan to attend the school board’s regular meeting Monday night to present a proposed interlocal agreement. The formal agreement is a necessary step for the school district in order to allow the county to build the rec center on GISD property.

The land is located on James Road near Acton Middle School. GISD officials agreed to donate the land because students will benefit. Swim practices and swim meets will be held there.

Roan predicted after Tuesday’s meeting that dirt will probably be turned on the project within the next four to six months, with the center opening sometime in 2014.

He said that he is in favor of a YMCA executive serving as the general contractor and construction manager for the project. Roan said that he and Berry have visited several recreation facilities where construction had been supervised by the Y, and both have confidence that the organization would do a good job of handling the Hood County project.

Roan said that the move would save the county at least a quarter of a million dollars and would prevent blaming that has occurred between general contractors and construction managers on other projects.

Roan added that he expects the Commissioners Court to soon vote on the matter.

the sauna debate

Part of the discussion at Tuesday’s meeting centered on requests for the rec center to have a sauna.

Y officials cautioned that there are issues with both heated whirlpools and dry saunas.

Whirlpools present logistical problems as well as sanitation concerns, they said. Both types of saunas are typically used after exercising to promote relaxation.

Dry saunas typically have temperatures between 70 and 100 degrees.

At issue in this case is privacy and possible problems if a sauna is shared by both sexes. Having separate dry sauna facilities for men and women would increase costs.

At the Y’s current facilities on Harbor Lakes Drive, there are dry saunas in both locker rooms.

Whirlpool saunas are “extremely expensive to maintain,” explained Lisa Gossard, executive director of the YMCA of Hood County. She said that several current members of the Y have expressed concern over the current plan for the rec center not including a sauna.

“It’s a challenge when you bring in hot water elements,” Rich Micelli told members of the Commissioners Court. Micelli is district executive director for the Y.

Todd Baker, vice president of the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth, explained to commissioners that saunas featuring hot water have “relatively high operations costs” and more regimented maintenance. They must be drained frequently, he said, and there are “health issues.” He further explained that when there is any malfunction, the units typically must be shut down and then “people get aggravated.”

It was not decided Tuesday whether the Hood County facility will or won’t feature a sauna. Roan asked that costs be researched.

One man in the audience who said he is a longtime member of the Hood County Y told the officials that a sauna is “a very important feature to a lot of us.”

“All we’re talking about is a dry sauna,” he said. “It just seems to me … we can find a way to put a sauna in there.”

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