SHERIDAN — A group of local residents calling themselves Citizens for Community Recreation continued their outreach efforts Wednesday by meeting with the Sheridan County Commission to discuss a new indoor aquatics facility and potential funding for it.
The group, which includes board members and leadership from the YMCA, Sheridan Recreation District and area foundations, has also gathered approximately 1,500 signatures in support of its efforts.
The group’s goal is to solve what has been a long-standing problem for the Sheridan community — access to efficient, family friendly aquatic facilities.
While the community has several options for those seeking recreation in a pool, most of the facilities in Sheridan County are aging and Kendrick Park pool has neared the end of its life.
As part of the group’s efforts, they’ve taken what would be a potential footprint for a new, indoor facility and placed it on a map over properties that could be used for the project. The desire, and advice from other studies done on aquatic centers, to keep the pool centrally located and not as a stand-alone facility have brought the group time and again to look at the soccer fields located next to the YMCA. The fields are currently owned by Whitney Benefits.
Jay McGinnis, executive director at the YMCA, has said his nonprofit organization could take over operations of the new aquatics facility, thus eliminating the need to build a stand-alone structure. The addition of the new aquatics facility would allow the YMCA to transfer its staff and operations capabilities to the new facility and decommission the YMCA’s current pools, leaving additional space for expanded programming at the community center.
“But we can’t do it by ourselves,” McGinnis told the county commissioners Wednesday, emphasizing the need for a public, private partnership.
The meeting was a part of the commissioners efforts to visit with various groups requesting Optional One-Cent Sales Tax funding.
McGinnis said, though, that the Citizens for Community Recreation weren’t necessarily asking for One-Cent funding. Instead, he said, the group is asking the county to consider where the funding could come from. The citizen committee has also been speaking with private donors and has a verbal commitment from the city of Sheridan to participate in the project. McGinnis said he believes the group of volunteers and the YMCA could raise between $6-7 million for the project in private funding.
The total expected project cost is estimated at $13.8 million, which includes the aquatics facility and the development of additional park space for athletics to potentially replace those that will be built on near the YMCA.
McGinnis said the citizen group behind the efforts would like to have most of the funding committed before moving into design or building phases. He noted that groups tend to lose fundraising momentum if they get too ahead of themselves. He did provide examples of what the facility could include, such as a zero-entry pool, slides and other family friendly amenities.
County commissioners expressed interest in the project and acknowledged the need in the community, but said they are unsure where the millions of dollars needed for the project could come from in the county’s budget. The commissioners said they’d like to have a joint meeting with the Sheridan City Council to discuss the project and said they would consider potential funding options as well.