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JCC moves toward financial fitness

Marketing, membership, cost-cutting initiatives underway

by Tamara Stokes

Staff Writer

The Jewish Community Center has launched strategic marketing, membership and cost-cutting initiatives to overcome the effects of the nation's soft economy, JCC leaders say.

A more concerted marketing program and membership incentives will seek to nudge the membership roll past the 2,800 level where it has stood over the last year, said Stuart Prescott, JCC president.

Jay Jacobs, JCC executive vice president, said the recent extension of fitness facility hours to Saturday mornings is just one part of the effort to make the JCC more profitable and competitive. The change in hours is also in response to requests by existing members.

Both men said they are hopeful the initiatives will reverse two years of operations deficits, the first ever for the JCC, in fiscal year 2003, which began Nov. 1.

Jacobs says the deficits reflect a bad economy and some failures to achieve fruition of program projects.

Within the last year and a half, he said, administrative restructuring has saved an estimated $400,000. By the end of the new fiscal year, he said the JCC, including the Glencliff Campus in Plano, is projected to be operating at least at a break-even point.

Jacobs says the three-week-old extension of fitness facility hours has been a major topic of discussion at national JCC conferences. and he is already receiving phone calls from leaders of sister facilities wanting to know the hours are working. More observant members of the greater Dallas Jewish community have criticized the new hours. Instead of opening at 1 p.m., a practice in effect 20 years, the fitness center is open at 7 a.m. Saturday mornings.

Jacobs says that feedback has been "a mixture of responses, but the majority have been positive. Even people who disagree with this decision preface their comments with an understanding of why this makes good business sense." No Jewish staff members are being asked to work on Shabbat.

He says there has been a decline in general in the fitness industry and the JCC concerns are not isolated.

"Even the Cooper Aerobics Center is direct mail marketing to increase membership these days," says Jacobs.

Jacobs says the JCC's goal is to become a benchmark for fitness, child care and programming in the Dallas community. He says, "We are one of Dallas' best-kept secrets," and part of the strategic marketing plan is to get the word out about what is available at the JCC.

Additional Capital Campaign funds of $5.5 million will be used to build a new sports complex that will include two indoor swimming pools. One pool will be therapeutic; the other will be designed for laps. The appeal should be to all age groups and should provide a venue for competition and training and other service senior activities. An additional $670,000 will be used to renovate the existing gymnasium and provide a state-of-the-art computer system. More information about expansion plans are at .

"We are looking at alternative utility providers for more competitive rates and we require at least three bids for contracts. Current vendors are required to re-bid for jobs. We can be sure we are getting the best deal," says Jacobs.

Another way both facilities lowered operating costs was evaluating summer usage and adjusted hours and staffing accordingly. Short-term memberships were made available during the summer and will be available again for use throughout the upcoming year.

In Plano, the development of additional rentals is another income-producing source for the center.

Membership statistics for the center indicate the population is 93 percent Jewish. The child-care facility is 97 percent Jewish. The child-care center was recently renamed 'Taglit' to reflect the unique Discovery programs offered.

Every November and December, the JCC pushes new memberships incentives, including "member-get-a-member." For every new family membership brought into the JCC by an existing member, new members get a 30 percent discount and existing members can earn $200 toward annual fees.

Jacobs says the center will continue to find ways to restructure and eliminate duplicated or unnecessary costs.

Steve Israel contributed to this article

This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Thursday, November 21, 2002








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