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Dec. 4, 2021

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Camas in talks to buy recreation center

City negotiating with LaCamas Swim & Sport owner, who wants facility in good hands over long term

By , Columbian Small Cities Reporter
3 Photos
The LaCamas Headhunters swim team practices at LaCamas Swim and Sport.
The LaCamas Headhunters swim team practices at LaCamas Swim and Sport. The city of Camas hopes to buy the facility and turn it into a new community center this year. Photo Gallery

By the end of the year, officials in Camas say, they hope to finally have the new community center they’ve long sought to bring to the city.

City leaders are in the midst of working out a multimillion-dollar deal to buy LaCamas Swim & Sport and convert the 41,000-square-foot facility into a new public recreation center. The option would be faster and more cost-effective than building a facility from scratch, City Administrator Pete Capell said.

Denise Croucher, who owns the club, came to the city with the idea earlier this year. Though she neither needs nor wants to sell the place yet, Croucher, 51, said she feels the city would do the best job of preserving her vision for the club once she retires.

Among its numerous amenities, LaCamas Swim & Sport features two pools, a gymnasium, spin rooms, a fitness area, and a child care center — almost everything the city wants in a community center. Fearing LA Fitness would buy the place in 2008, Croucher stepped up to become the sole owner of the club that year after her co-owners decided to get out of the business.

“I don’t want to see it become another LA Fitness or 24-Hour Fitness,” she said. “I do want to make sure the club I’ve worked so hard to build in this community is here in 20, 30, 40 years. My kids are in college now, and it’s very clear that running a club is not their dream.”

Croucher said she doesn’t expect to finalize the deal for more than a year, but Capell said he hopes to close the sale in the next five months. Of course, the deal ultimately depends on whether the Camas City Council supports the acquisition.

Funding for the purchase would come from a bond for upwards of $5.4 million. Capell said he expects the councilors to vote on whether to move forward with the bond later this month after discussing financial projections for the building today.

Officials anticipate the community center would be profitable, based on a feasibility study by the Sports Management Group, a recreation planning consulting firm. The firm estimates the facility could operate with a surplus of as little as $4,000 to as much as $236,000 each year.

If the city moves forward with the deal, officials will also want to purchase a 4.5-acre site around the club, which has been appraised at about $1.2 million, Capell said. Croucher leases the land from Arne Olsen, but the city hasn’t approached Olsen about buying it. The land would open space to develop more parking spots and add meeting rooms for recreation programs and fitness classes.

The purchase would also lead to the closure of the Camas Municipal Pool at Crown Park and the aging community center on Southeast Seventh Avenue in downtown.

“The Crown Park pool is old, and it needs major renovations or really just needs to be rebuilt,” Capell said. “I think that you could enhance Crown Park as a whole by replacing the pool with something else.”

The city would retain some of the staff at LaCamas Swim & Sport, but new management would need to take over, Capell said. Croucher hopes to continue working there in some capacity, and Capell said the city is open to hiring her.

Columbian Small Cities Reporter