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Medford sports complex takes first step towards completion

Medford voters are approving one portion of funding for the construction of the Howard Memorial Sports Park.

Posted: May 20, 2020 4:13 PM
Updated: Oct 1, 2020 10:24 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. – Medford voters are approving one portion of funding for the construction of a new sports and events complex.

The first step in funding the Howard Memorial Sports Park was secured in the primary election on May 19th with the passing of the 2% transient lodging tax increase.

The tax increase was approved by just over 1,000 votes. 52% voted for the tax increase while 47% voted against it.

The proposal for the Howard Memorial Sports Park includes indoor recreational and competitive pools and a multi-purpose events center.

“The event center component of the facility is about 90,000 ft.² so it’s almost like 2 acres of covered open space,” said Rich Rosenthal, the Parks and Recreation Facilities Department Director for the City f Medford, “it can be configured for eight basketball courts, all under one roof, or 16 volleyball courts or 40 pickle ball courts.”

The large indoor space will be a drastic change for the indoor sports here in the Rogue Valley. Right now, local tournaments are split between multiple gyms and swim teams travel hours to compete.

“There isn’t a sports and events complex anything like what is proposed, in the region, going from Eugene all the way down to Redding,” said Rosenthal, “building something like this at the size and scale that’s proposed will really have a huge impact, not only on residents but also for businesses.”

The Parks and Recreation department says they believe this indoor complex will bring tourism to the Rogue Valley, similar to the increase that following the completion of U.S. Cellular Fields.

While voter approval for the increase in the transient lodging tax was a big first step, the process is far from over.

The next step, according to Rosenthal, is for Medford City Council to weigh in on the other funding mechanisms. There’s a study session scheduled for Thursday, May 28th to begin that discussion.

In the current proposal, the other streams of funding come from expanding the current airport “Rental Car Tax” to apply to commercial locations citywide, a $2.40/month increase to the park utility fee and the early repayment of a U.S. Cellular Community Park bond, to free up $1.6 million per year in existing city financing.

Even after the funding specifics are set by city council, it will likely be a year to a year and a half before a shovel breaks ground.

“There is still a lot of time and a lot of opportunity for citizens to weigh in on this topic,” said Rosenthal, “there are a lot of things that need to happen between now and 2022-2023.”

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