Say Yes for Montauk

A request from the Montauk Playhouse Foundation for $3 million from the Town of East Hampton to help realize a long-imagined dream of an aquatic exercise and cultural center is well worth pursuing. 

The playhouse has been operating as a community center with a gym and fitness equipment and programs for adults and children for about 10 years. However, the plan always was for a portion of the mock-Tudor building, which dates to the late 1920s, to house a swimming program. 

Other than an indoor pool at Gurney’s Resort, the only indoor swimming facility east of Southampton is the East Hampton Y.M.C.A.-RECenter, which hosts school and club teams, lifeguard training, and recreational swimmers, as well as programs for senior citizens and others. It is a very full schedule, and the Y has struggled recently with maintenance and wear and tear. Spreading some of that use to a new Montauk site would be good for the whole town.

The $8.5 million cost of installing two pools plus events, classes, and performance space at the playhouse is reasonable. According to the foundation, about $3 million in private donations is either in the bank or has been assured. With the $3 million from the town, it says, raising the remainder would be easy. 

For town taxpayers, the deal should be a no-brainer as well. Bond rates are favorable, which argues for action sooner rather than later. And because the town is in a solid financial position, bringing the Montauk Playhouse project to completion is not going to set back other programs or projects.

In retrospect, the initial $6 million in town money that funded the playhouse conversion in 2003 was well spent. Since then, the foundation has done its part, raising considerable sums, and is deservedly confident that it could deliver the balance. Every effort should be made to supply the town portion of the needed funding.