ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Local office workers and other non-residents who like to play basketball at lunch or after work may get shut out if they are not city residents. But city officials say they need to control who comes and goes at city gyms.
The Recreation and Parks Department received permission Dec. 9 from the Alpharetta City Council to create a membership card system for adults who want to use the facilities.
Recreation Director Jim Perry told council that the Recreation Commission had been concerned about a number of issues concerning “free-play” use of the gym at the Community Recreation Center and the Wills Park Community Center.
“We have a sign-up sheet for users, but it has become a joke as people use obvious aliases like ‘Shaq’ or ‘Michael Jordan.’ The commission is concerned about safety and to ensure city residents are not shut out of using the facilities,” Perry said.
“It comes down to a membership card so we know who is using the facility.”
Roswell and Forsyth County already have instituted such policies and have associated a fee structure that calls for non-residents to pay more. Roswell has a fee of $25 to $50 for non-residents while Forsyth County charges $125 and $10 for county residents.
Perry cited an incident at Roswell’s Hembree Park gym in which a resident got into an altercation with other gym users and was severely beaten. The city needs to “get ahead of the curve” so as a matter of safety, the city should take action, he said.
“We now have a computer system that accepts photo IDs so residents can come in and swipe a card and get signed up to play. We will make it free to residents. The main thing is the safety of everybody at the gyms,” Perry said.
Councilman Jim Gilvin recommended the Recreation Department implement and administer the ID system. One concern that needs addressing is adopting a policy for corporate workers who work in the city but live outside the city limits.
“Then you have folks who have a visiting cousin,” Gilvin said.
He wanted a policy that did not seem inhospitable.
Councilman Chris Owens said he was not concerned about generating revenue.
“If this is put in place, and the gym is full, do residents get priority,” he asked.
Perry said traditional use of the gym is people wait their turn. One group plays a game, and then the “losers sit, and challengers come on the court.”
“We just want to identify the folks using our facilities. Pricing helps as a factor for those who show up on the spur of the moment. That will discourage some who show up bringing friends,” he said.
Councilman Mike Kennedy said he preferred a per-visit charge, especially for non-residents, similar to what is done at the city pool.
Councilman D.C. Aiken said he “liked where this is going.” He thought a $5 or $10 charge would be reasonable.
“Also, residents will need to know they need a card,” he said.
Perry said the Recreation Department would do as much education as possible to alert residents of the change.
The City Council voted to allow Perry and the Recreation Commission to develop a policy and bring it back for final approval when they are ready.