Architect Gives Presentation on Proposed Aquatic Park
November 21, 2007
By Steve Card of the News-Times
A proposed Aquatic Park that would serve residents and visitors in Newport and the surrounding area was a topic of discussion at a meeting last week in Newport Architect Carl Sherwood, of Robertson Sherwood Architects in Eugene, was hired about a year ago to conduct a planning and design study, the goal of which was to explore the feasibility of building an Aquatic Park. As part of the study, public meetings were held around the county - with the exception of the Lincoln City area - to gather input and gauge support for this project.
A draft version of the final study was presented by Sherwood during the monthly meeting of the Friends of the Newport Aquatic Park, held on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Newport Recreation Center. Elements of the study include facility assessment, market assessment, facility programs, site recommendations, concept design and other recommendations. Sherwood said they began the study with a number of goals, which included evaluating existing facilities, analyzing the market, identifying the needs, surveying the level of support, defining the "solution," and developing funding support.
"We kind of got hung up in site selection," Sherwood said, "so we didn't spend as much time on defining the site solution. You can't really design a site or be specific about costs until you have a site selected. "About a half dozen possible locations were looked at, but nothing has been selected as yet. Even though no final decision has been made, they have been able to establish the criteria for what is needed in a site, as well as the approximate size it will have to be. Sherwood gave a rundown on what was learned over the last year.
During the facility assessment phase, they studied the Newport Swimming Pool. That facility is functionally at capacity, is on a fairly small site, and has old systems that are continually in need of maintenance. Although the structure itself is solid, any renovation would require that it be brought up to code in terms of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility. A major renovation of the current swimming pool would run between $1 and $1.5 million, said Sherwood, and a renovation plus expansion would be $2 to $2.5 million. But even when spending $2.5 million on the pool, "you would have essentially the same programs you have today," Sherwood said.
"You would have an improved, longer-lasting facility, but it would not meet the needs of the greater community. "As a result of the public meetings held earlier this year, a number of features desired in a new Aquatic Park were identified. People would like to have a 25-yard, 8-lane pool. They would also like a multi-use pool, which could cater to non-swimmers wanting to use the facility. This would include things like a zero-depth entry and warmer, shallower water. A "double flow rider" is also something identified as a desirable feature, Sherwood said. A relatively new phenomenon, this is a "high draw" for young adults and teens.
"Basically it's a flowing chute of water that you surf on," he said. A therapy pool is another feature people would like to see. This type of pool would be able to incorporate a broad range of programs. And a water slide is "a key recreational element in aquatic facilities," said Sherwood. "People expect to see these." Other desirable features in a facility include a snack bar/cafe, sauna and steam room, and meeting lease/rental spaces. The center would also need to incorporate changing spaces and support spaces. Altogether, the Aquatic Park would need around 46,000 square feet of space, said Sherwood, which is about half the size of the Newport Recreation Center.
There would also need to be parking for around 150 vehicles. With those requirements in mind, the ideal site would be a minimum of 3 to 3.5 acres. That doesn't rule out a smaller site, added Sherwood, but that would require "stacking" some components, resulting in higher development costs .Even without a specific site in mind, Sherwood was able to develop a generic design plan, incorporating the various elements that people want to see in the facility. "It gives us an example of what would be there and how the elements would fit," he said.
Using this generic design, and factoring in known costs for building similar projects in Oregon and Washington, Sherwood was able to come up with an estimated project budget of $15 to $16.5 million. This allows for about two years worth of inflation, assuming the project won't go to bid until about two years down the road. These figures don't include the cost of acquiring the site, said Sherwood. In addition to construction costs, Sherwood has analyzed the potential operating costs of a new facility. Based on data from other facilities, an Aquatic Park of this nature would generate revenue covering about 57 percent of its operating costs.
The current swimming pool recovers about 25 percent of operating costs, he said. But running a state-of-the-art Aquatic Park will be more expensive than operating the Newport Swimming Pool, so even with the higher use, the anticipated annual subsidy needed for operations will about double from its current level - from $155,000 to around $300,000. Sherwood added, however, that this estimated level of use "depends on a site that is well located.
"Recommendations coming out of the study include developing a year-round, family Aquatic Park capable of accommodating the anticipated population growth of the area for the next 50 years; providing a regional facility, not just one for the City of Newport; offering broad-based programs featuring numerous aquatic activities; providing related revenue activities; and locating it on an appropriate site. This would also be a publicly owned and operated facility, but this doesn't necessarily mean it would be operated by the City of Newport. It could be done through formation of a special district.
Determining what entity will own and operate the facility is a task yet to be accomplished and something that will be addressed in a strategic plan. The site selection also needs to be finalized, sooner rather than later, Sherwood said, "so it can help bolster support for the project and allow us to move forward with the design." And once the design is finalized, the budget costs can be updated and refined. Sherwood was asked if there are grants available for developing a project like this. He said there are, as well as the possibility of securing private donations. And the Friends of the Newport Aquatic Park are in a much better position to go after this funding than is a public entity such as the City of Newport.
Sherwood was also asked about energy saving concepts for an Aquatic Park. "The goals of sustainable design are built into this, but the specific details are not at this point. The goals are to a more green and sustainable design." He added grant applications will likely be viewed more favorably if using sustainable design elements. "There are a lot of energy saving features available for facilities of this type," said Sherwood. The upfront costs may be higher, but the savings are there in the long run.
The study document provided by Sherwood is essentially a tool that can be used as the project moves forward. Kat Pedersen, president of the Friends of the Newport Aquatic Park, said Sherwood's report "is pretty positive considering the number of issues that came up while we were doing this. We've done a lot of work, (and) this is a good jumping-off place.
"Steve Card is assistant editor for the News-Times.
He can be reached at 265-8571 ext. 224, or firstname.lastname@example.org.