Akron General Health System has signed a letter of intent to partner with the city of Broadview Heights, OH, on its fourth medical fitness center, according to the city and the hospital group. Akron General already has two medical fitness centers and just broke ground on a third one that is expected to be completed at the end of the year.

The fourth facility, planned to be 115,000 square feet, will be built next to city hall on six acres of land leased by Akron General from the city for a modest annual fee, says Doug Ribley, vice president of health and wellness services at Akron General Lifestyles, the medical fitness center department of Akron General Health System. The facility will share parking and campus access roads with city hall, but Akron General will pay for any necessary improvements to roadways and parking, according to the city.

The lease arrangement significantly reduces Akron General’s cost on the estimated $30 million project. The cost savings may be even greater as Ribley says the center may use some of the city’s support services, including snow plowing, lawn mowing and routine landscaping.

Although the lower cost and shared services are attractive to Akron General, Ribley says that the partnership also allows the hospital to reach more people. And it benefits the city, too.

“The city gets a world-class wellness center and health care services that are available to their community without having to use tax dollars to build it,” Ribley says. “To get the tax dollars to build a facility like that, promises have to be made. Typically, ridiculously low fees are promised to get the tax dollars to build those facilities. Once they are built, the reality of those promises sets in, and they tend to lose significant dollars. The city has to issue operating levies to fund the continued operation of these centers. They end up being not a positive but a negative in a community.”

Partnerships like this one could potentially be a solution for other municipalities to provide health and fitness services without requiring tax dollars and tax subsidization, Ribley says.

“We think this could be a model for communities going forward,” he says.

The facility will include three gymnasiums, group exercise classes, child care and medical facilities. It also will include three pools: a competition-sized pool, a leisure pool and a warm-water therapy pool. It may also include a splash park if a grant is received. Other features include outpatient services, physicians offices and a 24-hour emergency department.

Citizens of Broadview Heights will receive discounted memberships to the facility, according to the agreement. The center is expected to open sometime in 2013.

Akron General Lifestyles had revenues of $12.4 million in 2010, according to the company’s Top 100 form received this year. That compares to $12.8 million in 2009 when the company tied for No. 58 on Club Industry’s Top 100 clubs list.