Why Do Some Raleigh Gyms Still Lack A/C?

By Brent Woodcox

On the campaign trail, Charles Francis has used the fact that some Raleigh gyms, particularly those in Southeast Raleigh, lack air conditioning to illustrate that there are certain parts of the city that seem to be receive an inequitable amount of taxpayer-funded resources.

PolitifactNC decided to fact check his claim...

“It’s not right that there are parks in Southeast Raleigh that still don’t have air conditioning in the gym,” [Francis] said. “We’ve got to have equity in the way we approach our parks.”

Southeast Raleigh, the city’s lone predominantly black area, hasn’t enjoyed the same economic success as other areas of the city where businesses are opening and property values are rising. Francis grew up there and is campaigning on the idea that the city should be doing more for the area. ...

Given the city’s budget is $919 million, PolitiFact wondered whether there are, indeed, gyms in Southeast Raleigh that don’t have air conditioning. ...

Turns out, the city controls 23 gyms at 19 venues. And yes, there are three gyms in southeast Raleigh that don’t have air-conditioning units, according to Raleigh’s parks, recreation and cultural resources department.

Biltmore Hills Park, John Chavis Memorial Park and Tarboro Road Park are all located in southeast Raleigh and lack air conditioning units.

But that’s not the whole story.

There are six other Raleigh gyms that also lack air-conditioning. The gyms at Green Road Park, Lions Park in northeast Raleigh, Method Community Park in west Raleigh, Millbrook Exchange Park in north Raleigh and two gyms at Laurel Hills Park in northwest Raleigh also lack air conditioning. ...

The city says it didn’t begin putting air-conditioned gyms in park facilities until 2006. It costs about $300,000 to install units in older facilities. ...
— Andy Specht, N&O

So even though the city has a $919 million budget and just spent $52 million to purchase the land for Dix Park, city officials say that it could be 2023 before they will fund A/C units for gyms in Raleigh that currently lack them.

And let's take a look at some maps to get an idea about where these gyms are that lack air conditioning.

This is a map of the gyms without A/C.

raleigh no ac gyms map.jpg

As you can see, most of those gyms are concentrated in the eastern half of Raleigh.

Now let's look at a map of gyms with A/C in Raleigh.

raleigh ac gyms map.jpg

As you can see, most of the gyms with air conditioning are concentrated in the western half of Raleigh.

Now let's look at a map of election results for the October 10 mayoral race. In the map below, brown precincts were carried by Mayor McFarlane and tan precincts were carried by Mr. Francis.

raleigh mayoral results map.jpg

Finally, let's look at a map of the racial demographics of Raleigh. 

raleigh racial demographics map.jpg

So it's safe to conclude that the fact checker was right. There is more to the story than just listing out which gyms have A/C and which don't in Raleigh.

When you look at these maps side by side a clear pattern develops.

Now it might be just an extremely unlucky coincidence that the majority of gyms without air conditioning are concentrated in the areas of the city that have the highest concentration of people with lower socioeconomic status, the highest concentration of minorities and that were most likely to support Charles Francis for mayor on October 10.

Or it might be that Mr. Francis has a point when he says if you just look close enough at city policy, including which gyms have been prioritized to get new A/C units, you quickly see a picture of two very different sections of Raleigh being painted before your eyes. And it is equally clear that city policy and city resources have favored one section over the other.

If I was fact checking the fact checker, I'd give this one a grade of incomplete.

Brent Woodcox