could be on its way to opening up membership to several new groups after the RiverWinds advisory board voted to recommend adding six new groups to the possible pool of members Monday night.
The nonbinding recommendation came after the board debated a memo from RiverWinds managers Cristin Veit and Greg Black, who advocated opening up membership to seven groups outside West Deptford residents and employees of West Deptford businesses, in the hopes of pushing membership back up toward its peak.
The board ultimately recommended six of the seven groups, with a cap at 11,300 members, with the aim at putting the center back at a total of 500 business family memberships and adding $237,000 in membership fees to the coffers.
“This is low-lying fruit for this community center,” board chair Jeff Hansen said.
While the board rejected the idea of opening the center to Gloucester County government employees, they recommended opening the doors to county sheriff’s officers, Gloucester County emergency services employees, members of the State Police, members of groups who rent out the facility, families sponsored by current members and senior citizens who live in Gloucester County.
The recommendation would have to pass at the township committee level to take effect, since the advisory board doesn’t have any direct power over the community center.
The decision came after a back-and-forth over whether opening membership would be the right thing to do, and there was a certain amount of dissent over whether to push harder to bring in residents and local employees before flinging wide the doors.
“Even if we could get a quarter of those people back, it would be a good start,” board member Carlton Bogan said.
But board vice-chair Steve Murtaugh argued those who have left the center are gone for good.
“We’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re going to get West Deptford people back,” he said.
Bill Van Kat also argued for a marketing blitz to try to capture workers from local businesses, arguing the center would be better-served by keeping membership close to home.
“At least we’re still maintaining the West Deptford community,” he said.
Membership is down to about 9,300 from the previous high, with various factors—including the shutdown of the and the opening of L.A. Fitness in Woodbury Heights—contributing to the dropoff, Veit said, though that trend seems to be slowing, if not reversing.
“We’re slowly starting to see some of those people come back,” Black said.
Black said the goal of their proposal would be to add 250 business family memberships, which pay the full $948 annual rate, to the rolls.
While the recommendation would be to cap membership at 11,300, Veit and Black said there wouldn’t be any issue adding as many residents who want to join the center, a concern that was raised by committeewoman Denice DiCarlo after the vote.