CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA -- A group of for-profit fitness clubs filed suit against the City of Charlottesville, VA, and Albemarle County (VA) yesterday, claiming the entities failed to follow state law during the bidding process for construction of a new pool.

The two governments awarded $3 million in public capital funds to the Piedmont Family YMCA for the pool’s construction. The clubs claim the process was not opened to public bidding. The YMCA was not named as a party in the lawsuit.

The Charlottesville Area Fitness Club Owners’ Association (CAFCOA), which formed specifically to file the lawsuit, includes ACAC Fitness and Wellness Centers, Gold’s Gym and Total Performance Sports and Fitness.

“It is with great reluctance that we pursue legal action,” the CAFCOA said in a statement. “We do not feel that constructing a large-scale fitness facility is the best use of taxpayer dollars. Given the current economic situation, we believe that appropriating $3 million…is a misuse of public funds—especially when other providers are in a position to offer solutions that cost less and can prevent destruction of a public park.”

The Y plans to build a 77,000-square-foot fitness and aquatic center in the city’s McIntire Park and entered into a 40-year ground lease with the City of Charlottesville for $1 per year.

Charlottesville published a legal advertisement to announce the bidding proposal in early October 2007, but stated only proposals submitted from nonprofit groups would be accepted, according to local media. At a public hearing to award the project, the Piedmont Family YMCA was the only bidder.

The city and county missed an opportunity to reach out to for-profit clubs, which could have provided the aquatic services cheaper, Greg Wells, CEO of ACAC, told reporters. The lawsuit calls for the opportunity to rebid services and suspension of construction.

“Hopefully, this will allow for for-profit companies to suggest alternatives to save the park, to save taxpayers $3 million and to prevent future liabilities,” Wells said.