Redmond-area voters could decide this spring on whether to fund a massive new recreation center.

The Redmond Area Park and Recreation District board is expected to vote in February on placing a $40 million bond package on the ballot as soon as May. Katie Hammer, the recreation district’s executive director, said the bond, which would be repaid over 20 years, would pay for a 66,000-square-foot recreation center.

Hammer sees the building as a place that could be used by community members of all ages. She said parents would drop children off at swim lessons and then walk down the hallway to their fitness class.

If passed, residents of the district would pay an extra 61 cents per $1,000 property tax valuation toward the new building, Hammer said. Since the district’s current tax rate of 37 cents per $1,000 valuation isn’t high enough to cover the operations costs of the new building, a separate ballot item could add a 19 cents per $1,000 valuation for a local operations levy.

For a $200,000 house that means an extra $122 per year on a property tax bill for the new building and another $38 for operations, Hammer said. If all 80 cents per $1,000 valuation are approved, it would add $160 to an annual tax bill.

Hammer said the board is considering tying the ballot measures together, or it could do them separately. Should the recreation center bond pass and the operations levy fail, the district could move ahead with construction and try again on the levy increase later. Hammer hopes the building will open in spring or early summer 2021.

What’s it include?

The new two-story recreation center would include a new leisure pool with waterslides, a lazy river and spray features and, possibly, a couple lap swimming lanes. Hammer said the new swimming areas could provide lessons for less experienced swimmers and lower-impact water aerobics classes. Competitive swimming and high-impact water aerobics would remain at the Cascade Swim Center near Redmond High.

“The lap lanes are full,” Hammer said of the Cascade Swim Center. “There are, generally, two to three people in a lane, and they, generally, share the pool with water aerobics.”

The new pools would be heated to between 86 and 88 degrees, which is more ideal for older and more casual swimmers, Hammer said. This would allow the Cascade Swim Center to lower its pool temperature from the current 84 degrees to a temperature more in line with competitive swimming.

One way the project is saving money is by not replacing the Cascade Swim Center, which would have added $7 million to the project cost. Hammer said they anticipate the swim center, which features a 25-meter competitive indoor pool, has another 15 years left on it.

“We want to be conscientious of the taxpayers and not ask for more than we need today,” she said.

While it doesn’t need a new competitive pool, some of the swim center’s other uses will need to be moved, Hammer said. The 40-year-old swim center opened when Redmond had a population of around 6,500, Hammer said. The city is now approaching 30,000 residents with 42,000 people in the district overall.

The recreation center would also have a gymnasium with two indoor basketball courts that could be converted for sports like pickleball, Hammer said. An elevated walking track would surround the gym.

The building would also include a group fitness room for classes like yoga, dance fitness and Zumba, as well as a larger area for weight and cardio equipment than what is crammed into the district’s current Activity Center.

A separate multi-use classroom space would be available for music, art, cooking and other classes.

“It could also be used for the community as meeting space and things like that,” Hammer said.

New home needed

That would all be a big change over the district’s current Activity Center on SW Canal Boulevard. The two buildings making up the facility now have only half a basketball court, which is shared with exercise classes.

“We’re running out of room — it makes us very friendly,” said JoAnne Fletcher, an Activity Center user who has been on the recreation district’s board for three years.

Exercise equipment is stuffed wherever space can be found. Meetings are held in a room used for other activities, with loud noises from neighboring racquetball often interrupting them.

Fletcher looks forward to being able to go from a water workout to playing pickleball in the same building.

“As a grandparent, it would be lovely to have a pool you can bring your grandkids in at normal working hours, because the schedule at the (current) pool is so tight,” she said.

Regardless of whether the bond passes, staying in the current building is not an option, Hammer said. The recreation department’s lease with the city of Redmond expires in 2022. She said the city plans to demolish the Activity Center after that to create an extension of SW Odem Medo Way, connecting South Highway 97 to SW Salmon Avenue.

Should the bond fail, it would mean the recreation district would have to find another space to lease. Fletcher said it would not be the first time the facility has had to find a new home.

“When I started fitness here, we were on Jackson Street,” she said.

Where will it go?

The district’s first choice is to build the facility on 11 acres across the parking lot from its existing Cascade Swim Center, but that would require a land swap with the Redmond School District. The new recreation center would go where the school district’s bus barn is, The recreation district would pay to relocate the bus barn to 10.6 acres it now owns on SW 35th Street near Highland Baptist Church. Hammer said the cost of the new bus barn is included in the $40 million bond.

Should the land deal, which has been in discussions for several months, fall though, the recreation district would build the recreation center on the 35th Street property, Hammer said. She prefers the school district site because it is more centrally located, especially for bicyclists and pedestrians, and would allow people to more easily go between the swim center, which would remain open, and the new facility.

“We feel we’re going to be successful with the land swap,” she said.

Having the recreation and swim centers nearby would likely help lure more people to join, Fletcher said.

“I would imagine there are quite a few fitness center members who have never been to the pool,” she said. “If it’s a combined facility, I would imagine the usage would be much better.”

The Activity Center had about 14,000 visits last year, while the Cascade Swim Center had 39,000, Hammer said. That doesn’t include programs like swim lessons, and art and music classes.

Most of the programs are at capacity with waiting lists, she said.

The recreation district now charges $288 annually for an all-access Activity Center pass for residents of the district and $561.60 for those outside the district. It also offers shorter-term passes and passes that include access to the swim center, as well as discounts for seniors, children, couples and families.

The district has yet to determine what fees would be for the new recreation center, Hammer said.

Getting it passed

The recreation district has been planning the new facility for a few years, Hammer said. A feasibility study was done in 2017, when the district also got feedback from the community.

“We know we need to do more outreach,” she said.

For a while, the elephant in the room for any large Redmond-area bond project will the November 2018 failure of the school district’s $69.8 million bond. The bond would have replaced aging M.A. Lynch Elementary and paid for safety, security and maintenance upgrades at other schools.

One advantage for the recreation district is its northern boundary stops at the Jefferson County line, meaning the Crooked River Ranch residents who sank the school bond by opposing it by a 66-percent to 34-percent margin will not be voting. The recreation district includes places like Eagle Crest and the main part of Terrebonne, but does not go as far to the southwest or southeast as the school district, which had much of the Tumalo area that isn’t in the recreation district.

Still, the recreation district will have to convince many residents of Deschutes County, where the school bond passed narrowly with 51 percent of the vote.

In 2008, a $38.6 million recreation district bond that would have built a 92,000-square-foot facility with a 50-meter competitive pool, as well as a 25-meter pool, two basketball courts, workout space and room for public meetings, was approved by only 31 percent of voters, according to Bulletin archives.

The park and recreation district plans to promote the different benefits it brings to the community, pointing out that it has users from six months into their 90s, Hammer said.

“I think it’s a different ask — our goal is to build a facility that will provide opportunities for all ages,” she said.

The new facility would be comparable to others in the region, a little larger than the Juniper Swim and Fitness Center in Bend or a scaled-down version of the 80,000-square-feet Firstenburg Community Center, which reportedly cost $17 million when it opened in 2006.

“That’s the gold plate,” Fletcher said of Vancouver. “Our wouldn’t be that big because ours isn’t the size of Vancouver.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

Clarification: The story originally was unclear about the current water temperature at the Cascade Swim Center competitive pool, which is kept at 84 degrees.

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