After yet another legitimate business-like decision, residents and Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics (“HFFA”) members are convinced the new management team is serious about running the business like an actual business for the first time since it opened over 15 years ago. A new title sponsorship deal at HFFA with Atrium Health was announced last Friday worth far more than the title sponsorship deal with the prior sponsor. This came about thanks to Swim Club Management Group (“SCMG”) engaging in what’s known in the business world as “negotiating.” A three-year deal with Atrium Health worth $65K a year plus other value-added offerings to HFFA members not currently available is a great deal for HFFA members and Huntersville taxpayers. And this on top of the recent news that HFFA actually posted a $102K revenue GAIN from July-October 2018 compared with a $117K revenue LOSS during the same period in 2017!
So why do I get the feeling not everyone in town was excited to hear the positive news last Friday night?
When the new management team, SCMG, was awarded the bid at the July 11, 2017 town board meeting after a long overdue competitive bid process, many people in town were skeptical of all their fancy promises about working to improve the existing contracts they had inherited, listening to what their customers wanted, and requiring members to actually pay their dues every month. Two town board members at the time, Melinda Bales and Rob Kidwell, even voted against the management change because they preferred the prior management team’s business model of losing money every year but hoping the public never noticed. Long time readers will also recall Commissioner Bales made unfounded assertions of collusion against SCMG during that July 11, 2017 meeting that she has still never apologized for.
If there’s one area in which SCMG could improve it’s in the self-promotion department. The bottom line usually speaks for itself in the business world, but SCMG chose to get involved in the political world when it took on the HFFA management contract. In the political world it’s who benefits that matters more than the bottom line. The news about the new title sponsorship deal prompted me to finish this article that I had been meaning to finish ever since hearing SCMG give their presentation to the town board back on Nov. 19, 2018 – because not enough people have heard the good news about what SCMG is doing at HFFA in just their first year of full-time management. (I would encourage you to watch the presentation for yourself beginning at the 28:30 mark here.)
Residents who there during SCMG’s presentation to the town board on Nov. 19 heard Zach Brown, the HFFA manager, and local marketing expert Peter Laatz detail some of the positive news like customer satisfaction rates being up and a dramatically improved NPS score. The board also heard from Brian Sheehan, SCMG CEO, who went through some of the financial facts and figures showing the much-improved financial situation at HFFA in just one year. You can download the slideshow presentations yourself below until I figure out how to add slideshows to this site.
The only question residents and HFFA members should be asking is why didn’t a prior town board make this management change sooner?
Current Mayor pro tem Melinda Bales has been consistently opposed to putting the HFFA management contract out for bid. She opposed a competitive bid process in October 2015, the last time the contract was up for renewal, along with commissioners Ron Julian, Sarah McAulay, and Jeff Neely and the prior mayor. Former two-term commissioner, Rob Kidwell, who has been very open about his intentions to run for mayor this year (for those who don’t know, 2019 is an election year in Huntersville), did vote against the contract renewal back in October 2015 when it didn’t matter – he knew he could safely vote no because the votes weren’t there for putting the contract out for a competitive bid. Coincidentally enough, many of the same people who were in favor of maintaining the status quo at HFFA back in October 2015 and July 2017 are now supporting the unofficial Kidwell for Mayor campaign.
Neither Commissioner Bales nor Mr. Kidwell has publicly acknowledged the success that SCMG is having at HFFA since they were awarded the management contract in July 2017. They can’t afford to admit they voted the wrong way. Commissioner Bales had nothing to say during the recent Nov. 19 HFFA presentation and neither of them has had anything to say yet about the great new sponsorship deal with Atrium Health. Their silence on the success at HFFA speaks volumes
Huntersville taxpayers can’t afford to revisit the failures of the past now that progress is finally being made at HFFA thanks to SCMG. Just something to keep in mind as the 2019 election season gets rolling in a few months.