Community Center plan advances
Woodburn City Council gave the green light to an ambitious proposal for a new community center, but the project's success hinges largely on fundraising strides made by the center's advocates and agreeable voters.
The council vote followed a more than an hour of presentation and discussion. Councilor Eric Morris opposed the plan, while the others voted in favor.
Jim Kalvelage of Opsis Architecture presented the proposed options to the council on Monday, Oct. 14, illustrated with a 30-page, PowerPoint presentation. The featured option, titled 1a in the proposal, carries an estimated sticker price of $52.7 million.
That option would realize a center that caters to everyone, from Boys & Girls Club members to area seniors, and would integrate the project with a makeover of adjacent Settlemier Park.
Kalvelage said the plan will "envision the park and the community center in a seamless way."
The proposed facility, which is essentially a major overhaul of the current Woodburn Aquatic Center and its surroundings, would be two stories with an entry plaza, community multi-purpose room, Boys & Girls Club, administrative offices, lap pool, recreation pool and a multi-purpose gymnasium all on the first floor.
The second floor would include a multi-purpose exercise room, areas for cardio and weight training and stretching along with an elevated walking and jogging track.
A number of outdoor features were also included in the plans, including basketball, tennis and futsal playing surfaces, a new shelter and lawn area.
The building's annual operations costs are estimated between $600k and $700k.
The Opsis design was developed while working in conjunction with a citizen advisory committee, which provided the 1a recommendation. The presentation, its price tag and operating costs gave the council plenty to mull over.
Two members of the center's planning committees, Dylan Wells and Anthony Veliz also spoke to the council and fielded questions about the planning.
Wells suggested that the operations aspect of aspect of the center could be handled by a separate entity, such as the YMCA. He said other communities such as Silverton, Independence and Sherwood have made operations arrangements with YMCAs that penciled out economically.
Both Veliz and Wells discussed various fund-raising possibilities that would pare down the price, thereby making the inevitable bond placed before the voters more appealing.
A survey conducted earlier this year indicated that most Woodburn residents support having a community center, but that support waivered significantly when the idea of a bond to pay for it was added to the question.
"We're not going to come to the voters with a $53 million dollar bond," Veliz said. "I think what it will look like is less than half that (amount)."
Wells and Veliz both pointed to the renovation of Salem's YMCA as an example of a project where significant funds generated by advocates made it a reality, and that Woodburn could launch a similar multi-prong funding campaign.
"Woodburn is one of those grant-writer's dreams, if you look at all the different demographics," Wells said.
Some skepticism surfaced.
"I don't want it to be like a picture on MSN that says 'abandoned community center,'" Councilor Mary Cornwell said. "You know? These places that were beautifully built that (entities) can't afford to keep open."
Cost and affordability were also key concerns of Morris.
"I appreciate the community coming in and saying this is what we really want," the councilor said of the advisory committee's recommendation. "A lot of times we say this is what we really want, but what can we really afford?
"A lot of times we go through these kinds of plans – this looks very, very impressive – I just don't think, quite frankly, we can afford to build it."
Morris did say that if the fundraising ideas floated by Wells and Veliz come to fruition, it could galvanize his interest. That may be the crux of the project, since successful fundraising would also prove weighty at the ballot box.
"One of the things that has always bugged me is when people say 'Well, that's good enough for Woodburn,'" Councilor Lisa Ellsworth said. "I hate that saying more than anything."
She stressed that the council is providing a nod to explore, but the voters will ultimately have say in how much will be spent.
"I'm at the point where I really think Woodburn deserves something of this magnitude," she said. "I agree that we may not be able to afford it…I do like option 1a; I think that's the right option for us. I also know if (advocates) don't come to the table with a stack of money when this goes out for bond, the citizens of Woodburn are going to speak."
In Newberg a similar recently-completed Chehalem Aquatic and Fitness Center was financed largely through the passing of a $19.9 million bond passed in 2014. However, Woodburn's planned facility is of a larger scope and size than the Newberg one, resembling more closely to Vancouver's Firstenburg Community Center.
"I toured (Firstenburg) last summer and Opsis is very familiar with it, since they were the architecture firm that designed it," Assistant City Administrator Jim Row noted.
Woodburn Aquatic Center Program Supervisor Josh Udermann, who is familiar with the Chehalem center, said there are stark differences between that center and the community center plans for Woodburn.
"The project's are completely different on their scope, so costs are going to vary greatly," Udermann said. "In Newberg they filled in their old pool and built a gymnasium with a (exercise) track around it. They renovated the rest of the old building for cardio and weight room spaces. They built a leisure pool and a second competition pool. "
Udermann stressed that Chehalem is one story and Woodburn's plan calls for two. Woodburn's also provides for a large multi-purpose gathering space, the Boys & Girls Club space, a child-watch room, kitchen, sauna and much larger exercise/cardio/weight room space."Some of their (Chehalem) amenities were cut back because of funding deficits, and George Fox also contributed $500,000 to the project," Udermann said. "Their total building footprint is 61,547 square feet, and our proposed building 1a (plan) that city council approved is 83,395 square feet."
Inflation also plays a role.
"I can't really speak to the cost of the Chehalem project, but I believe much of it was a remodel, rather than new construction; it is also smaller and the bonds were issued 6 years prior to when our measure might be on the ballot," Row said.
"The cost estimate for our project was developed by a firm that specializes in construction cost estimating, so we believe it be an accurate estimate," he added. "As you may know, construction costs have really escalated in the past few years."
Woodburn City Council's next meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, at city hall, 270 Montgomery St.
Woodburn's first city council in November will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 12, as Monday, Nov. 11, is the observance of Veteran's Day. Woodburn City Hall, Woodburn City Library and Woodburn Aquatic Center will all be closed that day.
The aquatic center will remained closed through Nov. 15 to accommodate facility maintenance projects.
For information, call 503-982-5228 or visit woodburn-or.gov.
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