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Supervisors OK Free Lease for Fitness Site

January 15, 1986|JOHN NEEDHAM | Times Staff Writer

In another move forward for the proposed national fitness academy, Orange County supervisors voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to give backers of the facility a 50-year, rent-free lease on a prime Aliso Viejo site.

"This is a historic occasion because the United States is the only country in the world that does not have a fitness academy," former Los Angeles Rams football coach George Allen told the supervisors.

However, county officials said that before the final lease is signed, the National Fitness Foundation--which is chaired by Allen--must demonstrate it has the funds to finance the estimated $50-million complex and guarantee its completion.

Ralph B. Clark, chairman of the Board of Supervisors and the lone vote against the lease, said he did not believe the agreement offered enough financial protections to the county if the academy "goes belly up."

Wants Financial Safeguards

"I really support the concept of the academy," Clark said. But, he added, "I just cannot find any justification for a 50- to 90-year lease" without more financial safeguards for the county.

In their action, supervisors granted a lease on the 200-acre site for 50 years, with the option to extend it for another 40 years. The land is being given to the county by the Mission Viejo Co. as part of the greenbelt east and south of Laguna Beach.

Supervisor Bruce Nestande said the question of whether the academy will be built in Aliso Viejo has been "tenuous at times," but with Allen behind the project "I knew somehow it would get done, and he would honor his commitment to Orange County."

Last month, supervisors expressed concern over their expenditure of nearly $70,000 in county funds without a commitment--such as a lease agreement--that the privately financed, nonprofit academy would be built in Orange County.

Some backers of the academy, in turn, complained that the county was taking too long to approve plans for the dormitory, gymnasium, meeting rooms and athletic fields along Aliso Creek. They said the academy should consider looking elsewhere for a site.

Allen, who presented the supervisors with T-shirts bearing the academy emblem and the individually inscribed name of each supervisor, said: "We have the President of the United States behind this (project). I know someday he will come and dedicate this."

President Reagan appointed Allen, who is also the former coach of the Washington Redskins football team, to chair the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Allen later formed the National Fitness Foundation to build the academy, which will stress youth programs and leadership training in its courses for physical fitness instructors and coaches.

Allen recalled that he had promised Reagan to get the facility built before the President leaves office, "so we have a tight schedule to follow."

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