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John Homan: Marion's HUB is looking like a winner

 
 
updated: 12/1/2017 5:59 PM

You have to invest money to make money. And that's exactly what the Marion City Council did in 2014 when it made a long-term financial commitment to opening a health, fitness and aquatics center on West Main Street, where the old hospital used to be.

The initial investment for The HUB was approximately $15 million, which included architectural fees, construction fees and equipment to help fill the 64,000-square-foot facility.

The city got a boost from the Department of Natural Resources in the form of a $2.5 million grant. The remaining $12.5 million is being paid down annually through the city's hotel tax over the next decade plus.

The HUB was not built to be a moneymaker, city treasurer Steve Hale explained Wednesday, but rather strictly for recreational use.

The city will levy $140,000 in tax money at the next council meeting for the ongoing operations of the facility. Meanwhile, the number of memberships at the HUB continues to skyrocket it was learned at Monday's city council meeting.

Director Chris Georgantas said Black Friday sales had generated 228 new members. That brings The HUB's total membership to 7,400.

Georgantas pushed for and received permission to form a swim team -- The Manta Rays, which will officially be launched in January, making the transition of the HUB's aquatics program from learning to swim to swim team. The Manta Rays will give youngsters from Marion and surrounding area a closer option to compete in an indoor swim league than the Carbondale Recreational Center.

"Pretty good leap of faith the council took three or four years ago in approving The HUB," said Marion city Commissioner Anthony Rinella at Monday's meeting.

I couldn't agree more, chief.

The recreational opportunities appeal to all ages. From basketball and racquetball courts to an indoor track, treadmills, myriad weights, and expansive pools ... The HUB is a state-of-the-art facility. It is certainly one Marionites should boast about having in their community for years to come.

And Georgantas deserves a great deal of credit for building The Hub into a thriving entity and one that could become self supportive in the years ahead.