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Consultant details costs of new pool, rec center

The latest design of the proposed South Whidbey pool and rec center shows an outdoor lap pool on one side of the facility, bordered by an outdoor basketball court. A climbing wall faces the parking lot at bottom right. - Photo courtesy of O.R.B. Architects
The latest design of the proposed South Whidbey pool and rec center shows an outdoor lap pool on one side of the facility, bordered by an outdoor basketball court. A climbing wall faces the parking lot at bottom right.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of O.R.B. Architects

Though they haven’t decided exactly how they will fund a new South End recreation center, South Whidbey Park & Recreation District commissioners have a clear idea what the facility will cost.

Park commissioners will meet on Aug. 11 to decide whether to add a measure to the November ballot asking voters to authorize a bond to pay for the $15.2 million project.

Their consultant, O.R.B. Architects, has provided a detailed breakdown of what each feature of the new facility will cost.

While the center’s two pools will be the big community draw, the cost of pools are a relatively small part of the total cost of the project. Combined, an outdoor lap pool and an indoor leisure pool will cost $3.6 million.

That said, the leisure pool — at roughly $2.4 million — is the biggest single cost of the project.

The next biggest cost, beyond $2 million for taxes, fees and other project-related costs, is a contingency fund for overuns that will total $1.6 million.

Mechanical systems for the center are also estimated at $1.6 million, and land development for the center is expected to cost $1.5 million.

Men’s and women’s changing rooms are estimated to cost $1.2 million, and lobby and concession spaces may cost about $1.1 million.

The big-ticket items include multi-purpose rooms for parties and aerobics classes for $600,000; a $400,000 water slide; a hot-tub area for $160,000; and an exterior climbing wall that’s expected to cost $250,000.

Principal architect Geoff Anderson noted the climbing wall, facing the main road, will be an eye-catching feature to help draw visitors to the center.

Rounding out the center’s features are a child-care space that is estimated to cost $102,000; park district offices and a kitchen for $202,000; a fully-equipped fitness center for $195,000; and an outdoor basketball court for $160,000.

Earlier this month, Anderson presented his design ideas for the center based on input derived after a series of public meetings. Clearly, the pool was the driving concern of most of those present.

The crowd was generally supportive of a swimming pool, but the devil was in the details. Some wanted the lap pool inside instead of out, others were concerned about water temperature and whether diving boards were included (they weren’t)

Anderson said Friday he expects to have financing and operating costs to the parks board by the first week of August.

“The plan is being done concurrently with the design factors,” he said. “We only narrowed down the design a week before the meeting.”

He said his firm is conducting a cost analysis comparing swim centers in a variety of Northwest locations.

Several residents have asked why anything beyond a simple lap pool was even needed. Financial reality dictates that pools lose money while recreation centers produce revenue, however.

Sequim is a case in point.

In its 2006 sports complex master plan for the rec center, consultant MacLeod Reckord advised park commissioners to look at Sequim’s experience, since the demographics are similar to South Whidbey.

Built in 1988, the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center has had a checkered financial history. The original facility was paid with a 20-year bond, but long-term maintenance and operations has always been a problem. Several levy requests that could have helped firm up the facility’s financial footing have failed over the years.

“As of June 30, we are $42,000 in the black,” said Sue Jacobs, executive director of Sequim’s aquatic center. “We’ve been self-sufficient the last five years because the dry areas offset the huge pool costs.”

She said that heating and constant staffing requirements mean their pool, though popular, operates at a loss.

“You need certified lifeguards whenever the pool is open, and that means for us just about all the time,” she said.

On the other hand, cardiovascular fitness and aerobics classes, the gym and weight room are busy and make enough money to keep the whole center above water financially.

Sequim charges $7 for a single adult admission and $346.75 for a one-year adult pass. Roughly 65 percent of their visitors use a pass; the rest are single-day-users.

For South Whidbey, Anderson said he has refined the target user fee to $5.28 for a single admission, with multi-use passes available. He said that $7 was at the top end for aquatic facilities around the areas but noted that it was up to the parks district to set the fees.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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