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May 4 Community Center Ballot Issue

The countdown to the May 4 election has begun. With one issue coming before Upper Arlington voters – the question of whether or not the City should construct a community center – we want to make sure you have had the opportunity to become informed and your questions have been addressed before you vote on this important issue.

Over the years, the City has considered the community center issue on several occasions. As community centers succeeded elsewhere, the City continued to hear of a desire for such a facility from our residents. The issue resurfaced through the 2018 Parks & Recreation Comprehensive Plan study process, with 81% of residents in a survey supporting a feasibility study for a multi-generational indoor recreation facility. In response, City Council formed the Community Center Feasibility Task Force (CCFTF) in the summer of 2019 to study the issue.

After an extensive 18-month process, the CCFTF concluded that it is feasible for the City to construct, operate and maintain a community center, with the former Lazarus/Macy’s site at Kingsdale identified as the preferred location. In January, the Task Force presented a report to City Council that included detailed funding scenarios, programming recommendations and operations scenarios.

Some recommendations from the CCFTF include:

  • It should include program space for seniors, replacing the current Senior Center.
  • It should be more than a recreational facility, serving as a central gathering place.
  • A business model should be pursued based on competitive market rate memberships and usage fees, with a goal of achieving a minimum cost recovery level of 85%.
  • Membership and usage fees should be tiered, and the operating budget should include a scholarship fund to assist residents facing financial barriers to participation.
  • The business model should include annual contributions to a fund for maintenance and equipment replacement.

The Proposed Facilities
The community center would be part of a seven-story building. Floors 1-5 would be dedicated to the community center. Floors 6 & 7 would be set aside for professional office use. In general, the facilities would include:

  • Level 1 – entry/lobby, indoor pool, multi-purpose event/party space, locker rooms
  • Level 2 – fitness/exercise spaces
  • Level 3 – 3 gymnasiums (1 multi-purpose), adventure play, teen space, child watch
  • Level 4 – Walking/running track overlooking gymnasiums
  • Level 5 – Senior program, shared classrooms, event hall/meeting space, outdoor multi-purpose terrace

Construction Financials
The budgeted construction cost of $54 million – which includes 23% for contingencies and inflation – would be covered without an increase in taxes by using a combination of:

  • $40 million long-term debt – to be repaid using annual Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenues generated by the Kingsdale Mixed-Use Project, hotel/motel tax revenues, and rent and income tax revenues generated by the office space.
  • $5.4 million in private funds raised through the UA Community Foundation.
  • $8.8-$9 million in City reserves.

Operations Financials
The community center business model has been developed based on patronage and pricing structures for comparable facilities in other communities. Some of the keys to success include:

  • A focus on spaces that can be used for multiple purposes.
  • Incorporating senior programming as part of a larger facility.
  • Achieving staffing and operations efficiencies by bringing programs within one location.
  • Providing a combination of memberships, drop-in fees, programming and facility rentals.

A Base-case business model projects full cost recovery, based on the proposed programming, a 3% market capture for memberships and 70% program capacity. Under this model, the current $530,000 subsidy that supports Parks & Recreation programming would no longer be needed.

A Stress Test model projects cost recovery of approximately 75%. This exercise was undertaken to account for potential down years (recession, pandemic, etc.) and assumes reductions of 33% in memberships, 50% reduction in daily admission fees, a 20% reduction in program capacity and @ 50% reduction in rentals. Under this model, the subsidy necessary to support operations would increase by approximately $250,000.

To Learn More
The City has developed a webpage with details about the proposed community center issue, including a preview of the ballot language, conceptual renderings, insight on how the community center would be part of the Kingsdale Mixed-Use Project, plans for the office space, answers to frequently asked questions and more. And if you are interested in digging further, the CCFTF website includes the full report, meeting videos and all associated documents developed over the course of the 18-month study process.

If you have questions, or you are part of a group that would be interested in a presentation on this issue, we want to hear from you. Contact us today!

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