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South Whidbey aquatic center will be awash in red ink

LANGLEY — South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District commissioners got the sobering news Thursday night that their proposed $15.2 million aquatic center could operate at a loss during its first nine years of operation.

The district's financial consultant, Geoff Anderson of ORB Architects, presented a report that said projected revenues will trail costs by $101,639 when the center opens in 2011. A worst-case scenario predicts a deficit of $131,873 during the center's first year of operations, and a best-case scenario of a $39,163 budget gap.

By 2020, the center could still be operating under a loss of $97,518 (under the worst-case scenario), or be in the black by $18,110 (under the best-case scenario), according to the consultant report.

The report is partly based on a public admission cost of $3.50, which includes an assumption that there will also be season passes and free admission for some.

According to the study, a total of 59,725 people will pay $3.50 to use the facility in its first year.

The report is being closely scrutinized by park officials, who will meet again on Monday to decide if the proposal should be placed on the November ballot.

"There are problems with the numbers," said Park Commissioner Allison Tapert. "For me, the information needs to be solid but if I can punch holes in them, anyone can."

Tapert noted that the projected revenue figure from concessions is not realistic, and she questioned including visitor dollars derived from visitors from north Whidbey and Camano Island.

"The numbers need to be bullet proof and we aren't there yet," she said.

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