EDC updates city on aquatic center

Cost of favored option projected near $14 million

EDC updates city on aquatic centerBy CHRISTINA MACGREGOR

News Review Correspondent

The Indian Wells Valley Economic Development Center reported findings on its aquatic center feasibility study at last week’s Ridgecrest City Council meeting, giving an update on what the community might be able to maintain based on the input gathered so far relating to interest and support.

The findings are “very preliminary at this point still, but we want to share them so you have an idea what we are thinking about,” said Scott O’Neil, executive director of IWVEDC

The EDC, in partnership with consultant Counsilman-Hunsaker, has been conducting the study since June. Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, Cerro Coso Community College, Sierra Sands Unified School District and local swim teams, identified as key users, have been among those participating in the process.

The study focused on six main groups — recreation, competition, business or commerce, education training, therapy and wellness.

Based on those findings, O’Neil discussed preliminary estimates on the potential construction costs, operating expenses and anticipated revenues.

George Deines of Counsilman-Hunsaker explained more in-depth plans and price points for the new center. Of the three options previously mentioned — spanning about $11 million for the most modest complex to $16 million for the most comprehensive, EDC is targeting a $14 million design that EDC leaders believe has the best chance of attracting a suitable volume of users while remaining financially viable.

That model would include an indoor pool for competitive, instructional and therapeutic use and an outdoor eight-lane competitive pool.

The plans also include a complex for outdoor recreational use, featuring a lazy river, water slides, play structure and toddler pool.

The outdoor facilities would probably be open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, which Deines remarked is pretty typical of such facilities.

O’Neil and Deines also said they found that having water fitness and aerobic classes would be hugely important to the Ridgecrest community, as would swimming lessons, birthday-party rentals, competition meets and training. Deines also mentioned that studies have shown that the sources for this input can provide up to $250,000 in revenue annually.

The concerns brought up during the meeting included those relating to water use and whether tertiary water would be used in such a facility. O’Neil said that the IWVEDC?is still looking into that possibility.

Some questioned whether the cost estimates were accurate. Others wondered how the project managers would cover the significant annual deficits between projected costs and revenues.

“Those are all going to be items that we want to work out and discuss in our workshop that we have coming up,” said O’Neil.

“They give our targets and what we are trying to do. A program that Counsilman-Hunsaker laid out that underpins the revenue possibilities for the facility is going to be one of the major subjects to make sure that we are using the facility in the proper way, that we can maximize the revenues, so that’s still work to be done.

“Those are estimates, and they give us a good starting point.”

In response to questions about admission fees, Deines provided some ballpark figures — noting that different attractions would probably command different fees.

The daily admission fee for the lap pool would probably be $3-5. The outdoor recreational side would probably be in the $8-10 range.

Deines predicted that individuals and families who purchase season passes would be eligible for significant discounts.

“With $75 season passes, if you come every day, it could be less than $1 per day.”

Deines said the group is also looking into subsidized memberships for those who can’t afford to come to the facility.

“We would see that the average person would pay about $7 [a day] to come to the facility, but we would also see that [it] would be a two-and-a-half- to a three-hour length of stay, so if you compare it to the cost of a movie, $7 for three hours of entertainment is cheaper than going to a movie that’s only going to last an hour and a half.”

O’Neil wanted to make sure that those in attendance knew that things are still in the planning stage with the center, and that he and others are still looking for investors.

“We have not finalized our plans, nor have we made any decisions,” he said.

“The next steps are for the IWVEDC to host a workshop, so that we understand and develop strategies for funding a project like this, and to seek commitments from private donors.

“Once this is complete, we will be ready to make some final decisions of what we want to build, how we want it to be managed and how it will be approached in the funding area.”

Story First Published: 2017-11-10