MEDFORD, Ore. -- The Medford Parks and Recreation Commission held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss what's next in the plans to build an Aquatics and Events Center. So far, plans include features like a recreational pool, a competition pool, an outdoor splash pad, as well as multiple basketball courts and multi-use courts.
Matt Miller has been trying to get a better swimming option in the Rogue Valley for years. As a swim coach for St. Mary's and Southern Oregon Masters Aquatics, he said they're just aren't enough year-round public options.
"Between Superior Athletic Club and the Medford YMCA, those are basically the only pools that people are using," Miller said.
The teams he coaches either swim at those two places he listed. With a Medford Aquatics and Events Center on the horizon, he's beyond excited to have a more public option.
"Just the ability to have a public pool somewhere in the Valley and give people the option to be able to go swim. Hopefully, there will be an age group team or a Masters Team to fill that pool and just grow the sport and get people water safe," Miller added.
Right now, the recommended site for the center is the Wes Howard Memorial Sports Park on North Ross Lane, behind Logos Public Charter School. The City of Medford doesn't own the site so about half of the land would need to be leased. But how will the city pay for the $60 million facility? The Parks and Rec Commission thinks the best option is to increase the Transient Lodging Tax (TLT) also known as just the lodging tax. Whenever someone stays in a hotel room, that tax is added to their bill.
"The more time that passes between getting the cost estimates to actually getting starting on it, the costs go up," said Parks and Rec Facilities Director Rich Rosenthal. "Time is of the essense."
The Parks and Rec Commission even wrote a letter to Medford City Council, saying just how important it is to keep moving forward with this project, and the need to move quickly. Commissioners will give it to city council at their next meeting.
The Commission wants city council to do either of two things but both ultimately rely on voters:
- Put that lodging tax increase on the May 2020 ballot or
- Ask the voters to amend the city charter so city council doesn't have to go to them in the future to change the lodging tax. This would be voted on in May 2020.
"It's a pretty light lift in terms of residents since most residents don't stay in hotels here. It wouldn't impact them nearly as much as a park utility fee or other things," Rosenthal added.
Medford City Council will have until February 2020 to decide on either of those options in order to get one on the May 2020 ballot. Should an option make it to the ballot and should voters pass it, the center will still take between two and three years to build. The department expects it to be complete at the end of 2022 or the start of 2023.