DERBY - Indoor Recreation of Orleans County (IROC) is in the midst of serious financial trouble.
Phil White, the executive director, is making an aggressive effort to stave off foreclosure and keep the doors open with the hope of creating a thriving facility someday. White continues to work without pay.
IROC is in debt for $1.1 million to Community National Bank and U.S. Rural Development and has been unable to make payments. White has sent a letter to each entity and explained a strategic plan to save IROC and to ask for more time to see it through before foreclosure.
White plans to ask all towns in Orleans and Northern Essex County for 10-year contracts. A petition drive is underway to get the question put to voters on Town Meeting Day in March 2013. Each town would pay annually based on population and on how close the town is to the IROC facility.
The figures work out to $4 to $7 per person. Derby has a population of 4,621, and would be asked for $7 per person for a total of $32,347. Newport City will be asked for just over $32,000. Some other examples are Holland, which would be asked for $4,403, and Charleston for $7,161.
The total from all towns is estimated $168,000 annually.
The payment would allow all youth through age 18 free memberships. Discounted individual and couple rates are also planned.
“It is time to put the issue to the towns of Orleans and northern Essex Counties. We hope that the citizens in our community appreciate the value IROC brings to the area and will support youth memberships, access to the walking track, and discounted adult memberships for their residents," White said in a statement.
Asking for town support is part of a larger strategy to increase revenues. IROC is also seeking 10-year commitments through a group called Friends of IROC. So far, $200,000 over the course of 10 years is committed. White hopes that figure will continue to grow.
This aggressive effort would make a “huge difference” in IROC’s ability to operate and assure a predictable cash flow, in turn allowing better planning and management, White said.
White also plans to discuss contracts for space and services with local schools and others.
IROC will propose a high school swimming team, wrestling team, freshman basketball team practice location, along with day trips and afternoon trips for students.
IROC recently opened a thrift shop in its lobby, which is currently generating net revenues of over $1,500 a month.
It is projected to generate $20,000 to $30,000 during its first year of operation, White said.
A county-wide, ongoing bottle drive is also underway.
IROC’s events are more popular than ever. The annual Dandelion Run had about twice as many participants this year as last year. IROC’s Kingdom Summer Games, a series of 10 running, biking, swimming, and kayaking events, are growing each year and are now drawing participants from 36 different states, five Canadian provinces, Mexico, Great Britain, and even as far away as Mumbai, India. They are projected to generate $200,000 to $250,000 in revenues to help support IROC’s operations.
Some say that the rural population in the area is insufficient to support a facility like IROC. However, by going outdoors in the summer, IROC is drawing significant numbers of athletes from other places, White explained. These events generate considerable tourism revenue for the area as athletes bring friends and family members to stay for several days around the events.
White added, “As these events grow, they will assure the long term financial viability of IROC even in this very rural area.”