In the year 2050, whoever is in charge of the City Council -after the elections of 2047- will suddenly receive a dozen municipal sports centers for their management, as a result of the wave of concessions for a quarter of a century that is looming in the capital . Until that time comes, private companies will be in charge of managing them and will receive their benefits, according to the model planned by the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez Almeida, for the new municipal sports centers of the city in this term: 14 endowments with swimming pools and gymnasium that will be awarded in contracts of 25 to 40 years to private companies.
The Paseo de la Dirección sports center will have a swimming pool, will dispense with a track and will be privatized for 25 years
The Works area is being used thoroughly to carry out all the projects and that they are armored before the elections of 2023 arrive. At the moment it has released the feasibility studies of six sports centers in Las Tablas, Barajas, Montecarmelo, to public information. Sanchinarro, Valdebebas and Tetuán. All are exactly the same in their approach: 2,655.48 meters of surface in which are distributed a swimming pool for adults, a learning glass (ground floor and basement) and four rooms for spinning, yoga, machines and dancing.
The projects of each of the six centers seem like a short stick in their basic characteristics if it were not for the plans of the parking spaces that accompany the studies, which go from 1:00 p.m. in Sanchinarro to 125 in Barajas, “depending on the size of the available plot “, explains the Madrid City Council. They also all resemble those that were built and managed by leading private companies in the sector such as Go Fit or Forus in other parts of the national geography.
The City Council justifies its decision by explaining that the six identical projects “obey a minimum program of needs, once the tender is launched, the contestants will be able to expand the endowment and the sports offer as much as the buildable area of each plot allows, as well as modifying the architectural configuration of the proposals “, indicate sources in the area.
In the initial designs of the new sports centers, the City Council dispenses with the tracks for team sports, common in other types of facilities and which in some cases were even planned during Carmena’s stage as mayor, as in the one on Mistral street ( Barajas) that was going to have a summer pool, sports courts and even an indoor skating rink, according to a complaint by Más Madrid. Now the remaining space will be transformed into a parking lot larger than the municipal sports center itself.
Something similar happened in the Cuatro Caminos sports center, whose works were already tendered and about to be awarded when Almeida’s team took office and annulled the public tender. Instead of the court for basketball, futsal or handball, it has designed more machine rooms, one less plant and a concession to the company that builds it for 40 years of operation, the same term as for the sports centers of Las Rosas (San Blas-Canillejas) and Ricardo Damas (Arganzuela), whose end of works is scheduled for 2023.
In these cases, the concession companies will be in charge of drawing up the final project, processing the licenses and executing the work within 18 months of its final approval. In exchange, they will have to pay a fee of 30,000 euros per year to the City Council for its exploitation (20,000 in the case of Las Rosas). In addition to the minimum required, they may propose during the bidding process the construction of other functionalities and even “parking in basements”, emphasize from the consistory. They also clarify in the Works area that “it will go hand in hand with the districts, which are the ones who establish the sports program of these centers and will be present throughout the adjudication process.”
No indoor court for basketball in Tetouan
In the Paseo de la Dirección (Tetuán), the plot destined to the new sports center was going to have three courts for team sports when the first design for the facility was devised, almost two decades ago. Now it will have, like all the previous ones, a four-room gym with a swimming pool and parking. Bad news for the neighborhood basketball teams, who will continue to have to train outdoors, whether it is cold, it rains or they have to endure 40ºC as in recent days. “A private company is not interested in having a sports court where they train clubs,” he denounced when the Antonio Granero project, from the Cuatro Caminos-Tetuán Neighborhood Association, became known.
Economic exploitation is the key to this model, residents say: municipal sports centers – whether privatized or not – have to reserve a good number of hours on their fields for clubs, which pay a seasonal bonus at reduced prices and so on. to be able to train all year round. “Leaving space for team sports, the awardee would earn 10% of what it will get with the new project, without a track and space for more gymnasiums,” explains Antonio. Neighbors and political parties argued to change the project. More Madrid highlighted that “the sports center is understood as a backbone of community life in Bellas Vistas, capable of consolidating itself as a community center that brings together, through sports and culture, the needs for recreation and coexistence.” The Works area ignored their requests and has approved the construction project without a runway.
The City Council refers to a survey of sports habits by the Higher Sports Council to justify their choice for gyms in their feasibility studies: 22.8% of the Spanish population affirm to do so weekly. This same survey affirms that 10.5% practice sports weekly that would need courts for team sports such as basketball, futsal, handball or volleyball. “A solution is chosen that meets the interests of use by the community, with adequate economic-financial viability for the operation and maintenance of the aforementioned sports facilities,” says the municipal study.
“They are car parks with a gym”
“It is only about building gyms to ensure a profitability of the company that guarantees speed in its construction and inauguration, to the detriment of neighborhood demands and municipal needs,” the spokesperson for Más Madrid, Rita Maestre, denounced a few days ago. “They suppress swimming pools, indoor collective tracks, skating rinks or pavilions of the projects agreed with the neighbors and replace them with weight training, fitness or spinning rooms, which report more economic benefits for the concession companies,” he added during a visit to the site where the municipal sports center of Sanchinarro will be located. There he also denounced that, in the rush, the City Council had published the plans of its feasibility study on a street in Pinto instead of in the capital Madrid.
Maestre considers that the proposed facilities are not “at all” the sports centers “that the neighbors demand and expect, but parking lots with gymnasiums”, which reveal “the PP’s commitment to a policy that only obeys partisan interests, by handing over the land and the management of the center in private hands “. His party partner Miguel Montejo also believes that this sports policy is “a full-blown fraud against the public, and that they have 600 million euros of surplus available, without any allocation, having been temporarily released from the spending rule” .
From the Works area they respond to the opposition spokesperson: “We respect that there are those who do not like the concession model, but we believe that in the same way that direct management is good in some cases, indirect management is also good in others, “they reply. “Public money must be spent in the most efficient way. For the citizen, that the management is direct or indirect is not significant, since the prices for the public are the same,” add the same sources.
While the debate continues, the tenders advance: in addition to the nine sports centers mentioned, the Works area is now preparing those for the sports centers of Pacífico (Retiro District), Cuatro Vientos (Latina District), Engineers Park (District de Villaverde) and Cañaveral (Vicálvaro District). At the moment the private concession term for these endowments is unknown, which the City Council has already advanced that they will follow the same model as the previous ones.