Town Square

New Burgess Gym could cost $26 million or more

Original post made on Mar 18, 2008

Menlo Park has an estimated $9 million to spend on a new Burgess Gym, but it appears the city will need more --- a lot more.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 18, 2008, 9:13 AM


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Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 18, 2008 at 10:57 am

It is really discouraging to see that initial estimates are so far above what were the expected costs for a new gym.

Apparently other cities in other areas are not faced with such high costs.

We were in Phoenix about one month ago and the local paper had an article on a new rec center / gym in Chandler that was just opening. Chandler is a much bigger community than Menlo Park, but I was thinking wouldn't a facility like this be just lovely in Menlo Park.

What now strikes me, is that it appears we don't seem to be getting very much for the dollars to be spent. The Chandler facility
is 62,000 sq. feet and it cost 12.5 MM. That works out to be about
$200.00 / sq foot.

From what I am hearing, our building costs here must be 2 or 3 times
what they are in Arizona.

Anyway, you might care to look at the information copied below.


Morris Brown

(information on Chandler's new rec / gymnasium )

Web Link

The new 62,000-sq.-ft. Tumbleweed Recreation Center is the focal
point of the 205-acre Tumbleweed Park. It offers a dynamic
environment for popular fitness, recreational enrichment and social
activities, emphasizing health, wellness, fun, socialization,
learning and intergenerational experiences.

Tumbleweed Recreation Center Amenities

The Center features group exercise and dance studios, an indoor
track, a fitness center with cardio and strength equipment, a
gymnasium, racquetball courts, a high-tech game room, a teen lounge,
a senior lounge, a computer lab, a teaching kitchen, multipurpose and
meeting rooms, art and ceramic studios, preschool classrooms and
on-site child watch for members

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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 18, 2008 at 1:49 pm

Yea, "rising cost of steel." Uh, did not see that issue in the cost of the AZ rec center.

The game is over for these kind of estimates. Wonder how the estimate came about. Let us see, measure T was for how much again? Oh yea $38M.

I will try and find an estimate of what it cost Equinox to build in Palo Alto. I am sure it was less (far less) than what is being discussed here. Better yea, how about we just let Equinox build the place, and with the money we save, all have free access for life.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 18, 2008 at 3:52 pm

New Guy,

I really really like your idea. I think the private sector will cut out the fat.

I would **love** to see a break down of the budget and estimates. Also, I would like to find out who the contractors and their owners are.

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Posted by PrivatizeThis
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 18, 2008 at 9:51 pm


A "private gym" - don't we have plenty of those already?

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Posted by as seen on TV
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 18, 2008 at 10:47 pm

When architectural firms get a percentage of construction cost for their fees (typically 15%) then it's no wonder they throw around sky high figures. They have the exclusive design contract so no one questions the figures.
Might check with Blach, DPR, among other contractors to get some direction on cost effective approaches to design, otherwise arch. firms will run up the tab with unaffordable schemes.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 19, 2008 at 9:55 am

Privatize This,

Definitely. I meant bring in some of the private sector ideas to trim some of the fat off. The private sector is not guaranteed revenue every year like a city does. The city, in no uncertain terms, has the money to spend on high salaries, consulting fees and buildings. Two different worlds here!

But yes, we do not need any more private gyms! :-)

This project has the potential to be very very cool.

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 19, 2008 at 12:58 pm

I will let Joanna slide on the "city, in no uncertain terms, has the money..." because she does not go into specifics (I for one don't believe the city has the money), but I will agree with the private sector position.

I think we should do what Cline said in the article and bring in some private funding to make sure we get the right facility and that we have more folks making sure we don't overspend.

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Posted by privatize_this
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:09 pm

The biggest reason public sector projects costs so much is unionization and the equally bad "prevailing wage". Profit and loss have no meaning in public sector because they can always raise taxes to plug the deficit. Remember Measure K?

Don't forget how much the unions supported the election of this council...

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 19, 2008 at 11:31 pm

PT, stay on point. This tired old argument about unions and privatization just keeps lingering with you guys. The developers paid 150K to get one council member elected. Let's get back to the gymnasium and how we can work it out without pulling out that silly garbage.

See, you even baited me into labeling. Developers should not be villified for supporting candidates, I take that earlier comment back.

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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 20, 2008 at 8:32 am

I did not mean to say a private gym is the way to go. I just wanted to make (a huge) point that a gym should not cost what the (architect/contractors) say it will. I welcome people who are interested and think we should spend so much money, to go and see what the best private gyms offer. Then think about what we should get for our money. Private gyms would not operate if it cost 24M to build the facility, its really just that simple. My guess is that it cost Equinox in Palo Alto (of whomever built the facility, maybe Equinox leases the space) less than $5M (and it includes a pool built above a parking lot).

So instead of $26M or more, we could spend $5M or even $10M, have a facility as nice or nicer that the most expensive private gyms in the area, and pay us back $5 dollars for each time we came in to exercise.

+++++ calculation +++++

$26M minus $10M for the gym = $16M

roughly 31K citizens in MP

give back $5 for each workout


103 visits per citizen paid $5 to work out

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Posted by MPworkingMom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 20, 2008 at 11:05 am

New Guy, thanks for the wild speculation on the cost of Equinox Gym. We'll all take that into account.

It seems to me that the main purpose of the city gym that's to be built is for youth recreation programs -- the extremely popular gymnastics program, basketball, etc.

Why would the city be interested in re-creating a private gym? Grown-ups who want to work out have lots of options in the private sector.

The city's focus should be on providing facilities for children and teens, and making the building ADA compliant.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 20, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Hi New Guy,

That's right. Private business wouldn't spend nearly that amount of money because it doesn't make sense. MP gets taxes every year and it doesn't matter if the city works well or not. We hand out ridiculous salaries just because everyone else does and in some cases, top other cities. Back to the point... we will overspend for many reasons.

Hi WorkingMom,

I would like to have access to a gym for exercise. I can only think of these gyms. Please add more if you know of any.

YMCA on Page Mill
101 Fitness on Marsh
That second floor gym in Palo Alto on Lytton

There is no place to go without buying a membership.

Anyway, did you know that MP spends like $1m to use a school gym for 10 days a year?

I don't have the time to get the exact numbers, but this is true: a lot of money for a little time.

Our kids need someplace to go and that is why it would be great to add it to the new building as well.

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Posted by MPworkingMom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 20, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Bayfront Fitness in MP has $10 drop-in rates, I believe.

Maybe I'm mistaken, but I thought the city raised the money to provide a gym for the city's many recreation programs, not to create a work-out meat-market with personal trainers and techno music.

If that's no longer the case, maybe the city should refocus on a less costly plan to replace the dilapidated facilities it's got and forget about adding a sauna and stairmasters.

It would be nice to have work-out facilities for adults, but clearly, now is not the time to go after pricey extras.

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Posted by HearingTheSameOldSameOld
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 20, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Joanna of MP = Diana Diamond of PA

Same old song, sung over & over: gov't sucks, get rid of it.

In that vein, how's that "Ron Paul Revolution" coming along, guys???

Is he up to 1% of the popular vote yet????

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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 20, 2008 at 10:34 pm

Ok, I think I get it now. I am not advocating a gym with techno music for adults, I think whoever MPworkingmom is made my point. So if all kids need is space, shouldn't it cost even less to build than a high end fitness club that costs members over 100/month?

Please go look what is built with far far far less money, then imagine how much less it should cost to build a gym with far far far less machines, techno music, trainers, meat market, fancy showers, massage rooms, oh how I could go on.

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Posted by recreation is more than a fitness center
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 21, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Thankfully some of you understand what a gym/rec center is. Drop in fitness is not a money maker. Have you been to burgess rec's old. They need new classrooms for recreation classes for kids-adults, a gym for basketball, volleyball, etc. where your schools and private sports leagues will play as well as adult sports leagues. As I understand it, it's for a completely new rec building with a gym, fitness center, classrooms, maybe dedicated spaces (dance studios, art rooms, etc) and offices. If you saw what other cities had you would be jealous! Menlo Park is making do with not-so-state-of-the-art facilities (except the pool).

This is in no comparison like your local club.

Comparing to Arizona? It also costs a lot less to live there and the labor costs are much cheaper.

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Posted by let's invest
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Let's not do this on the cheap! I don't mean that we need to build an extravagant facility or to be anything other than thrifty.

This is a wealthy community overall, and it would be a shame to build something that won't last or won't serve the community well (young to old)for a long time as the population and demographics change. If we put the gym/rec center operation out for competitive bids, I don't have a problem with that as long as we demand high quality and service levels, and a share of any profits. What I cannot abide by is another single-source sweetheart deal (think POOL)even to good operators, or to spend big bucks on a building with minimal flexibility or growth potential (think child care center). We can do better. I would rather phase a project than to cut back the scope so much it's hardly worth doing.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 21, 2008 at 7:42 pm

I fear that any good idea from the public will be left unheard. $26 million? Let's have transparency and open bidding. If a light bulb costs $25, then the public should see it in a public list. If it is done right this could be a great cornerstone in our community.

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 23, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Transparency and open bidding? You mean transparency as in having a public meeting with draft plans and announcing to the press and public that the project could cost $26M or more? Or is that somehow a trick? Don't start with the open bidding stuff until you review how the last council gave away the pool without any bid at all. Start there and work your way out.

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Posted by thrifty
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 24, 2008 at 7:27 pm

I like the idea of some competitive designs and bids. This is sounding like the original child care center taj mahal that was so expensive but ridiculously inflexible. Then we ended up with something smaller and even less flexible for short term savings.
Maybe it's time for a request for information to solicit creative ideas for solving, maybe even in a phased way, the needs for updated facilities. Even moving things around on the Burgess campus and getting rid of unnecessary fake stream. There is a LOT of wasted space. I like a park-like feel, but it's really difficult to get around and a lot of space is not used well.

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Posted by GoForIt
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 25, 2008 at 10:04 am


I like your idea about reclaiming wasted space at Burgess. Let's get rid of that one building that REALLY useless - it's called "Council Chambers", I believe.

You can equivalently replace it with just a small, enclosed sandbox into which all politicans and their "crews" can climb into one a week to throw sand in each other's face while the general public watches!

The remaining reclaimed space can then be upgraded for use as a designated dog-pooping area!

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 26, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Is this an unrealistic dream?

Have a retired executive who made a career in real estate volunteer his/her time to head this up.

Presumably, the executive is wealthy and honest enough to not benefit from volunteering for this. The executive is also honest enough to have his/her friends or companies benefit from this project.

The retired executive knows what things cost. He/she also knows how to get costs down and realistic. It would take a suave architect or design and construction firm to pull the wool over his/her eyes.

I think we will end up with:

1) a building that serves its intended purposes
2) a budget that is realistic for a company that is NOT guaranteed money ever year like a city. Conservation.. imagine that!
3) no lavish spending
4) fast results

What do you think? Just a thought.

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Posted by Liz
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 26, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Well, Joanna, what I think is that you're pulling our collective leg with your silly little "dream." If you really believe that the city should turn over this project to a real estate retiree who "presumably... is wealthy and honest enough to not benefit from volunteering for this," you are -- nah, you're just having fun with us, and I bit. Good job.

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Posted by Who could she mean?
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 26, 2008 at 3:36 pm

Don Brawner, anyone?

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Posted by odd geezer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 26, 2008 at 9:49 pm

Nice try, but ol' DB's been out of town and without internet for some time. Any other guesses?

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Posted by HaHaGoodOne!
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 27, 2008 at 10:41 am

Oh and, of course, that "retired" real estate person would never just happen to "steer" things in favor of certain entities he/she knows in return for $$$. No, of course not!

Nice try, Joanna!

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 27, 2008 at 12:59 pm


Um, no. The whole point of the **impartial** retiree is that he/she would do what you, Menlo Park or the council never could. Make decisions that benefit no one else but the city.

I am justifiably cynical of our council and the Good Ole Way of doing business in Menlo Park. I would love to hear how else we can end potential corruption and wasteful spending.

I should have specified... the outside retiree could be (and should be) from another area or state.

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Posted by sick of it
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 28, 2008 at 5:55 pm

Give the poor City Council members a break! I am really sick of the all the negative comments in this (and frankly, most other as well) Town Square Forum threads. It's quite disheartening to see all the nasty, cynical comments that some people in this town apparently feel free to spew out when they can hide behind a cloak of anonymity and avoid any responsibility for their words. It's fine to raise issues and concerns, but it would be much more constructive to do it without such an unnecessarily nasty tone. Shame on all of you!

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Posted by also sick of it
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 28, 2008 at 8:18 pm

I totally agree that this and other threads could use some additional positive and constructive comments and a lot fewer personal attacks, most if not all of which appear to be unfounded. If people accuse others of serious misdeeds and even crimes such as corruption (a claim by an earlier author), they should provide substantiating information so appropriate actions can be taken. Otherwise, please keep the mud and slop in the ground and toilet where they belong. I don't agree with every thing said or done by every individual councilmember, but I do respect the service they provide and think it's more productive to talk with them than to throw arrows at them. I'm embarrassed of our community that so many choose not to be civil.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 30, 2008 at 11:45 am

I am also sick of the personal attacks. They take away from important and legitimate concerns.

Blind and forgiving acceptance of our council and its decisions is damaging to democracy and patriotism and is frankly irresponsible.

Questioning decisions that cost our city large sums of money is a part of due diligence and is the responsible thing. I agree that accusations should be followed up with evidence... but not for review on a public board but by the States Attorney office.

I stand for open and clear discussions for council business and an elimination of barriers for questioning. There is no reason for anyone to want anything else.

Respecting the council and its members is something we all have to do. I am embarrassed for anyone who does otherwise. As humans, we have a calling to respect other humans. However it is very important for us to know that having respect does not mean following the council's decisions blindly.

Lots of people talk to individual council members, but it is not necessary to meet and raise questions in private. At least it should not be anyway. Having a functioning government does not and should not require concerned citizens to become friends with or have a relationship with council members. Equal access means that any concern brought to the council's attention is as important and legitimate as a concern brought to council members directly and privately.

I do wish that our community would not confuse distention with overall negativity and pugnacious behavior. It is important for all of us to look beyond a tone and concentrate on the content only.

Anyway, have a nice Sunday.