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SHERIDAN — Two planning documents developed in relation to the multipurpose recreation facility being discussed by SCSD 2 indicate that the project could cost $48 million and potentially operate at an annual deficit of $1.7 million.
As part of its investigation into creating a large, multipurpose recreation center adjacent to Sheridan High School, Sheridan County School District 2 hired Ballard*King and Associates, a consulting firm in Colorado, to create a market and operations analysis for the discussed center. The study cost the school district approximately $17,400 and was commissioned during the 2012-2013 school year.
SCSD 2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty noted there are no architectural renderings of potential designs, only rough sketches of a layout surrounding the high school. He said for the Ballard*King report, the consultants used estimates arrived at by SCSD 2 Facilities Director Julie Carroll who worked in conjunction with Sheridan-based TSP Inc. to develop estimates of required square footage — approximately 150,000 — and costs — $48 million. Dougherty said TSP donated their time for the project.
The superintendent also said the space estimates were based on discussions that have been taking place for two years amongst the school district and various community stakeholders. The estimates included space for a variety of amenities that stakeholders recommended, including swimming pools, an indoor track, weight and cardio rooms, locker rooms, training rooms and more.
Dougherty said the report is a draft copy and that the expansive view it takes, is based on fulfilling the “wish lists” of all the entities they have spoken with so far.
“As far as anything that has been finalized, we have not gotten to that point,” SCSD 2 Board Chair Richard Bridge said. “This has just been, you know, if you had a list of the nice things you’d like to see, what would you want on that list. And so, that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
The report gave a thorough analysis of Sheridan statistics such as population size, median income, demographics and more. It included estimates of projected revenue from the facility from user fees and rental of the space by various groups, as well as expected costs to staff and maintain the facility.
Consultant with Ballard*King noted that depending on the ultimate size of the facility and how it is staffed with full-time and part-time employees, an annual subsidy of $700,000 to $1.7 million could be required. However, it pointed out that several factors could affect this rate, including creating an endowment to offset operational costs, decreasing hours of operation, decreasing staffing levels and/or compensation rates, incorporating existing staff to fill needed positions, re-evaluating size and included amenities and investigating generating additional revenue through programming.
The estimates on operating costs were based on fee schedules the consultants developed. Fees included daily user fees of $7 for adults, $6 for teens and $5 for youth and seniors. Fees noted in the study also included rental rates for use of various parts of the facility including the pools, field house and basketball, tennis and volleyball courts. The consultants also factored fees such as $200 for a birthday party rental and $200 for personal training packages into their revenue estimates for the facility.
In addition to numbers and figures, several challenges and opportunities were noted by Ballard*King. Challenges included possible opposition to the facility from current service providers; a low median income in Sheridan which could restrict the number of people who might utilize the facility; a decrease in use of the facility during warm weather months; the large amount of space currently slated for aquatics which tend to be costly to operate; pushback from the community if a property tax increase was pursued; and an older median age of residents in Sheridan.
However, the report listed several opportunities as well, including the possibility of the YMCA and the Sheridan Recreation District serving as partners in the project, the opportunity for fundraising for the project through various philanthropic groups in town and a realization that half of Sheridan’s population makes below $50,000, which is not the target audience currently served by alternate private service providers.
One significant component of the facility as currently written would be the inclusion of a natatorium, or aquatic center, that would feature a 10-lane, 50-meter competition pool; a recreation pool with a ‘lazy river,’ slides and other accessories; and three therapy pools with treadmill, bike and resistance features.
Although there are currently four public swimming pools in town, at Kendrick Park, Sheridan Junior High and two at the YMCA, the report notes that all of the structures are aging and will need significant repair or replacement in coming years, providing the opportunity for different entities to partner and possibly share the significant costs associated with building and maintaining pools.
Questions left unanswered
Despite the time and money spent on the Ballard*King study, though, Dougherty and other SCSD2 officials said they feel questions remain on whether the Sheridan community could support a project of this magnitude.
“Communities reach a certain size where there’s a breaking point of what you can sustain and support,” Carroll said, “Which is kind of the Ballard and King study. Are we there yet? Is Sheridan there yet to be able to support a facility like that?”
But when asked whether the study answered that, Dougherty replied:
“No. I think it just gave information in relation to what it, it give you information, you can read through it. It really does give information from their perspective on whether Sheridan can support it.”
Carroll said that was a fair assessment of the study.
“That’s why we hadn’t moved forward with any of the public meetings to say should we bond, should we not. I think that’s still, can it be supported? Are we to the size it would be appropriate?” Carroll said. “But it will keep growing, Sheridan will, and what point do you need to have that 10-year vision that you have to start it.”
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