Port Authority Likely to do Study on Regional Aquatic Center
The Chelan Douglas Port Authority will likely conduct a feasibility study on a regional aquatic center for Chelan and Douglas counties.
There's been a high level of interest in the topic and state Senator Brad Hawkins held a large meeting about a possible aquatic center earlier this month.
Port CEO Jim Kuntz says the study should clarify what the project would look like for the public.
"What is it we're going to build," said Kuntz. "How are we going to finance it. And then, ultimately the voters decide."
The study will look at three options - a large sports complex with an aquatic center, and an indoor and outdoor aquatic center.
The sports complex would include a baseball fourplex, sports courts and turf fields along with an indoor Olympic size pool, splash pads and water slides.
The indoor aquatic center will have an Olympic size pool with splash pads and water slides. The outdoor seasonal aquatic center would have an outdoor Olympic size pool with splash pads and water slides.
Douglas County commissioners have been very specific in their desire for full sports complex.
Port Commissioner Richard DeRock says the various cities in the two counties have not agreed on what the project should look like.
"There's a lot of interest, but it's fragmented all over the place," said DeRock. "There's no consistent vision of where people want to go, and there are some hard lines that people are already drawing. I think there's an agreement to get the study done, and I think there's consensus on that. I don't think there's a consensus on anything past that."
The feasibility study could take up to a year to complete.
It would look at the two county region's demographics and population (120,000) to determine if there are enough people to support an aquatic center.
It would look at proposed costs for construction and operation, and how much revenue it could generate.
It would further explore the regional economic impact of an aquatic center.
The mechanism for funding the project is to form an aquatics district, which may or may not require a change in law. Senator Hawkins is looking into possibly sponsoring a bill to formalize aquatics districts.
The local district would include all the cities and unincorporated areas of both Chelan and Douglas counties. All the jurisdictions together could raise between $10-$12 million a year to finance the project.
Voters would decide whether to back a 0.1 percent or 0.2 percent sales tax hike. Jurisdictions would also be able to completely opt out of the project.
The Port has pegged the cost of the feasibility study at $300,000 and has stated it will not foot the bill. There's thinking the counties and the cities of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee will subsidize the study.
The Port is currently looking at other communities in Washington, including Bellville, that have their own successful aquatic centers.
Funding for the local aquatic center could possibly include money to make road improvements on SR 28, which would run through the proposed site north of East Wenatchee known as Wenatchi Landing.