CUYAHOGA FALLS: A fight over whether family rates should apply to same-sex couples at the Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium is over.
The five-member Cuyahoga Falls Park Board voted this week to adopt a new rate structure that replaces the discounted “spouse” and “family” rates with a “household” rate that can include a mix of up to seven adults and children.
The new definition is more in line with that of the Water Works Aquatic Center, which defines a family as “a mother, father, and any children under 21 living at the same address.” Instead of a “spousal discount,” the Water Works center sells a two-person season pass for $105.
The Natatorium previously defined a “family” as “a legally married couple who have legal guardianship over one or more children.”
The change came with an overhaul of all fees, which started after Mayor Don Walters took office in January. The new rates and policies will take effect June 15.
“We wanted it to be fair to everybody,” Walters said. “Some rates will bump up a little, some will go down.”
Most annual memberships prices increase $60 for each person added. Some nonresident fees are lower.
The park board left intact a free two-week pass for active military personnel who are Cuyahoga Falls residents.
Board members and Park and Recreation Superintendent Ed Stewart, worked with Walters and his administration to whittle some 114 rate categories down to 12.
“They said it was impossible to do basically what we’ve done,” Walters said. “This will open us up to more business, and it actually simplifies things.”
Stewart said the new pricing should reduce employee training from 40 hours to 20. And the pricing is competitive, he said.
“We’re not afraid to be compared to our competition,” Stewart said. “We have a great facility with a great staff and great programs.”
The Natatorium has more than 8,000 annual members, and another 3,000 seniors who are part of the Silver Sneakers program through their health-care providers.
Stewart hopes the changes will bring in more members.
The park board first considered changing the definition of “family” in January 2012.
Longtime members Shane and Coty May, who got married a few months earlier in Washington, D.C., where same-sex unions are legal, presented their marriage license to a facility employee and asked for the spousal rate — a savings of about $130.
Because Ohio does not recognize same-sex marriage, the Mays were turned down. The public fight created national headlines.
In March 2012, the board voted 3-2 against a motion by then-chairman Tim Gorbach to change the spousal rate to include all “legally married or domestic partners in a civil union as recognized by any U.S. jurisdiction.” Gorbach also asked for a new “household rate” that would cover traditional and nontraditional families.
In May 2012, Gorbach again brought the idea of a “household rate” before the board for a vote and it was again rejected.
Five members of the LGBT community, who sat in a packed room for the 2012 hearings, made up most of the audience at this week’s meeting.
“This policy change not only affects families like mine, but also grandparents raising grandchildren, the couple who has been together 25 years with children and so forth,” Shane May said. “I have never been more proud to call Cuyahoga Falls my hometown and I thank Mayor Walters for his dedication to equality so one day families like mine can be a part of the new normal.”
Walters said the changes are about increasing business, but added, “Anyone who wants to read anything into it is fine.”
Erin Nash, who also attended the meeting, said the city’s move toward diversity is positive.
“They are recognizing that family isn’t always mom, dad and kids,” she said. “They are saying, no matter what your family looks like, you are welcome here.”
Gina Mace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.