The city of Woodburn's vision of expanding the Woodburn Aquatic Center into a comprehensive community center is becoming closer to reality with $1 million in lottery revenue bonds secured for the project by the Oregon Legislature.
State Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, D-Woodburn, announced the funding last week. Alonso Leon, along with House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), advocated for the project to be included in the state's allocation of lottery bonds for the 2017-19 biennium.
"We have the opportunity to build a space that will be transformative for our community," Alonso Leon said in a press release. "Our community will now have a dedicated space to gather. When this project is complete, we will finally have a place to learn and to grow together as a community."
The allocation of bond funding to the project was included in Senate Bill 5530, which passed the House on July 18. Some of the other funding in the bill includes $6 million for a community sports and recreation center in Eugene, $2 million for a workforce training center in Gresham and $12 million for a new YMCA center in Salem.
After the bonds are issued, principal payments and interest will be repaid over 20 years with Oregon State Lottery revenue. The $1 million in funding will be available to the city of Woodburn in the spring of 2019, according to the Department of Administrative Services.
Before the bonds are sold and the funds are distributed, the Department of Administrative Services will develop an agreement between the state and the city of Woodburn regarding the bonds.
Anthony Veliz, president of the Woodburn Downtown Association and one of the community leaders working to advance the community center project, said the funding will provide a "huge boost" to the project.
"A million dollars is a lot of money. We still have a ways to go, but this is a catalyst for us to go to foundations and private companies and to secure public and individual donors," Veliz said. "This is the catalyst and the seed money to get this going."
Woodburn residents have pushed for a community center for more than a decade. The city had a community center decades ago, but insufficient parking, neighbors' noise complaints and maintenance costs forced it to close. Voters rejected two bond measures in the late '90s and early 2000s aimed at building a replacement, leaving Woodburn as one of the few cities of its size without a community center.
The project gained renewed interest last year when Veliz and the downtown association approached the city about the project. In January this year, the city contracted with an architecture firm for the creation of a feasibility study exploring the possibility of renovating and expanding the Woodburn Aquatic Center into a more comprehensive community center.
The project's goal is to expand the Woodburn Aquatic Center, located in Settlemier Park, to create a 41,000-square-foot multipurpose building. Carleton Hart Architects, the firm working on the feasibility study, has been conducting community meetings to receive feedback on what features and amenities are desired in a community center.
Veliz said many community members want the facility to have a commercial kitchen, a gym area and a multipurpose room that could fit about 300 occupants and could be reserved for events.
The feasibility study, once completed, will have updated cost estimates for the project. The most recent estimate for the project was $11 million.