End of an era: School Board votes to end memberships at Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club

The facility will be student-focused with pool memberships ending June 30, and the gym closing by the end of the year.

Flagler County School Board Chair Will Furry said, "It's time to stop the bleeding." Photo by Brent Woronoff
Flagler County School Board Chair Will Furry said, "It's time to stop the bleeding." Photo by Brent Woronoff
Photo by Brent Woronoff
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With Flagler County School Board Chair Will Furry saying it is “time to stop the bleeding,” the board voted 3-2 on Tuesday, March 26, to convert the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club into a student-use only facility.

Christy Chong made the motion to close pool memberships on June 30, the end of the district’s fiscal year, and terminate gym memberships including contracts with health insurance companies.

Two of the insurance contracts run until the end of the year, so gym members through those companies will be able to continue to use the gym through Dec. 31. Chong’s motion directs the district to negotiate earlier exits with the insurance companies if possible.

“It’s a very sad day,” said Cheryl Massaro, who voted against the motion along with Colleen Conklin.

Sally Hunt voted with Furry and Chong to close the club’s gym and convert the pool for school district use and rental only. The Flagler Fluid Swim Team and the Synchro Belles will continue their agreements. Flagler Palm Coast High School’s swim team will also continue to use the pool for practice and meets. The Matanzas High team swims at the Frieda Zamba Pool at the Palm Coast Aquatics Center. 

The board had voted on May 16, 2023, to give the district a chance to increase club revenue by attracting new members, raising rates and adding a pool option for insurance members. The insurance companies paid the district $72,252 last year for their members’ gym usage.

The board voted 3-2 last year for a deadline through the summer, with assessments to be made on a periodic basis and closing the club in December if the operating deficit was not significantly reduced.


Board member Cheryl Massaro said, "It's a very sad day." Photo by Brent Woronoff

At a March 5 workshop, district staff presented an update with the facility’s projected deficit of $176,758 for the 2023-2024 year. That is even more than last year’s loss of $175,184.

But Massaro said the projected loss does not take into account a likely spike during the summer months and implored her fellow board members to keep the pool and gym open to members through the summer.

“To cut the pool out to our residents, our community members and our children who don’t have pools seems ludicrous to me,” Massaro said. “It’s unfair to the members. This community is asking us, what’s a couple more months? We had a plan, and now we want to change it. … I’m not opposed to close it when we go through the process. At least let kids get through the summer, and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”

But Furry said the pool will still be accessible to the community through group rentals.

“There will be programs that kids can access during the summer time, I’m sure,” he said. “There just won’t be a membership club anymore after this. And we won’t be hemorrhaging money in the six figures every year.”

The club currently has an operating budget of $351,758. Without memberships and no staff on site, the facility’s expenses would still be $79,000. Furry said that expense would be an investment for the district’s students.

Conklin said the district still has to maintain the pool, but without memberships it will no longer receive revenue.


With the gym closed, the facility could operate without staff. The swim teams and any rental groups would provide their own lifeguards. But an employee will have to be on staff at the gym for the rest of the year as memberships are phased out.

Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart holds up the 2024 Flagler County Voter's Guide, designed by Gabriel Guzman, a digital design student at Flagler Palm Coast High School. Photo by Brent Woronoff

Joshua Walker, Flagler Schools’ supervisor of human resources, said new pool memberships will be sold as long as they expire by June 30. Current memberships that go beyond that date will be pro-rated and refunded, he said.

“We still have to have discussions on a refund procedure and what memberships are available moving forward,” Walker told the Observer. “The big thing is communicating to all members and all stakeholders what it will look like moving forward.”

In addition to club memberships that cost up to $420 a year for an adult to use the gym, tennis courts, pool and sauna, the club has insurance members through companies that have various contracts.

ASH Silver&Fit and Active&Fit have contracts with the district through the end of the year. The ASH contracts require a 90-day notice that they will be terminated on Dec. 31. The Renew Active contract also runs to the end of the year and requires a 120-day notice that it will be terminated.

Florida Health Care can be terminated at any time upon a 90-day notice, and Optum can be terminated at the end of a 120-day notice. The approved motion directs the district to negotiate with the insurance companies for an earlier exit.

The Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club was built in 1979 by the ITT Corporation and later gifted to the School Board. The district has been operating the facility in the red for years.

“Originally, the idea was a joint-use facility,” Conklin said. “The community would benefit from it and the school district would benefit from it.”

Conklin noted that the operations budget never came out of K-12 money. “That would have been illegal,” she said.

When the board discussed the possibility of ending memberships a year ago, a parade of members beseeched board members to keep the gym open. But on March 26, only a handful of members, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, spoke at the workshop and business meeting. 


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