A plan to build several health and activity centers for seniors in Oklahoma City was revised during a meeting of the MAPS advisory board on Thursday.
The board will recommend the city council next month adopt a revamped list of expectations for potential operators of the centers, with hopes that more flexibility will attract a more diverse group of bidders.
A similar call for proposals last year produced only two bids, neither of which generated excitement among board members or the subcommittee that is overseeing the project's development.
“Some people thought it had to be built on city-owned land,” said Michael Dover, chairman of the subcommittee and a member of the MAPS advisory board. “It just wasn't a good fit.”
The senior health and wellness centers were among the most popular of eight projects included in the MAPS 3 program, a major sales tax-backed capital improvements project approved by city voters in 2009.
Initial plans called for four centers, but the project outline approved Thursday gives potential operating partners a chance to propose what they think will be the most efficient way to operate this kind of facility.
Dover said that could mean four different groups operating four different centers, one group operating two larger centers, or any combination in-between.
The only thing concrete: Whoever operates the centers must be focused on providing affordable and reliable health and recreational activities to the city's 50-and-older population, and that includes a swimming pool for therapy.
“We don't want income and cost to be a reason why people can't participate,” Dover said.
The YMCA and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department were the only organizations to submit proposals last year. Dover said as many as 10 different organizations have been participating in recent subcommittee conversations.
The new program outline for the senior centers clarifies that they can be built on land not yet owned by the city, and it opens the door for the MAPS money to be spent renovating or adding onto a current facility.
Potential center operators must demonstrate that they can develop fitness-related programming, offer social services and socialization outlets for seniors, educational classes in the arts, and a retail component.
David Todd, MAPS 3 program manager, said he hopes the revised project outline will prevent the city from having to subsidize any potential operating partner for the centers.
“We'd hoped by revising it so it's much more flexible that it would allow people to do things that might not need a subsidy,” he said.
The city council will review the new request for proposals at a meeting Jan. 2, and if approved, interested organizations will have 90 days to submit plans.