- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
Local swim teams may be out in the cold come December, when the south campus of Paris Fitness & Aquatics is scheduled to close.
“If this building shuts down, there is also a great chance our swim programs at PISD and NLISD, along with USA swim, will end,” said Monica Clement, mother of Paris High School swimmer Avery Clement.
Paris Fitness & Aquatics plans to finish its expansion of its north campus before the first of the year and shut down its facility at 950 E. Austin, which is where the swim teams for North Lamar and Paris high schools practice.
Given the summer school schedule, the coaches for NLHS and PHS could not be reached for comment, but they have said that if the pool were to close, that would likely shut the swim programs down.
The north PF&A campus will have a pool, but it will be used for things like physical therapy, and the water temperature won’t work for swim team conditioning. Because of that, some have said Paris should look at building a community natatorium.
The building is up for sale and has attracted a few interested buyers – including, briefly, the city of Paris. Mayor A.J. Hashmi said he received emails from several residents about purchasing the building. He spoke with the owners, who told him of restrictions in the sale that would keep a buyer from running any sort of membership-based fitness facility there.
“It is very hard to spend taxpayers’ dollars on things in which the city might not get full utilization of the facilities,” he said. “If the city owns property, the property should be able to be used by all the residents. It doesn’t make sense for the city to own property that could not be utilized.”
The sort of non-compete clause the center is requiring isn’t surprising, City Manager John Godwin said, and cities often charge memberships for recreation centers.
“It never went very far,” Godwin said. “We knew it was closing, and we knew it was available and we looked to see how much it would cost.”
The City Council discussed the matter recently, but took no action. Any further movement on the issue from the city seems unlikely at this point.
“I’ve already had my conversations with them,” Hashmi said. “I think there is somebody else talking to them at this point who still wants to acquire the facility.”
Shanna Beshirs, general manager of Paris Fitness & Aquatics, confirmed there “are a couple of other buyers interested in the building,” but said she couldn’t provide any more detail.
“I wish the city had been able to do it,” she said.
Several concerned residents met with city officials to discuss the deal, including Clement. She said they were encouraged to write to City Council members, which they have done.
“I think it is insane that they feel a youth rec center would hurt their membership at north when I would have to guess that the average age for their current membership is 40-50, maybe higher,” Clement said. “The proposed use of this building could greatly benefit Paris youth, and we all feel very disappointed with the owners blocking the city.”
Paris doesn’t need another vacant building, Clement said. She questioned whether anyone buy the facility to only use the pool when it has another half with basketball courts and other amenities. Such a center would also help provide an attraction for company executives and others looking to move to Paris, she said.