City officials still are determining how big a splash Medford's proposed municipal water park should make.

City officials still are determining how big a splash Medford's proposed municipal water park should make.

Plans could include an eight-lane competition swimming pool, a lazy river, family beach areas, splash pads, a wave machine, tube and drop water slides, mat racers, smaller areas for swim lessons, large shade structures, parking for up to 500 — or one of several scaled-down versions.

Council members discussed the balance between visitor counts, park fees and construction costs during a study session Thursday.

"There is a law of diminishing returns," said Mayor Gary Wheeler.

The public tends to lose interest in a park that is too small. A large-scale "destination park" likely would draw patrons from across the state, or even across state lines — but it comes with the highest price tag, said Ken Ogden, the city's consultant for the project.

"I want to see the costs and revenues over time," said Councilman Bob Strosser.

No price tags have yet been determined for the project's various options reviewed by council members Thursday. But Ogden said cost estimates will be available within the next few weeks.

The proposed water park is being considered in Bear Creek Park where the dog park and BMX track are located, said Brian Sjothun, parks and recreation director, adding both will be relocated and improved.

The Bear Creek property is owned by the city and was appraised at $4.5 million two years ago, Sjothun said.

Adjacent to Lazy Creek and a wetlands area, the site lends itself to nature-themed construction which could help increase revenues to the city, provide an oasis and even improve fish migration, Odgen said.

"We want to take that creek, enhance it, and make it an attribute to the park," said Ogden.

The site's sunny location makes it ideal for collecting solar energy, said Buzz Thieleman of RHT Energy Solutions. Energy grants, incentives and tax credits will help with the park's operation costs, he said.

The community had identified a water park as its second most important leisure activity project behind what is now U.S. Cellular Community Park.

That started in motion a conversation with the community to test the feasibility, Sjothun said.

The city's two municipal pools continue to age and deteriorate. Maintenance costs for Jackson and Hawthorne Park pools have become extreme, he said.

"The chemical and heating bill is extremely high," said Sjothun, adding that the Hawthorne Park pool lost about 6,600 gallons of water each day of operation during its 11-week season.

Sjothun suspects the water is leaking from underground pipes. Fixing the leaks would require tearing out the entire pool and cost the city between $2 million to $4 million, he said.

The water park has the ability to lower operational costs, generate more revenue and accommodate more patrons with larger nonswimming areas, Ogden said. An estimated 61 jobs would be created within the community to build and maintain the park, according to the city's Web site.

Residents will help decide the preferred option for the water park, including which water features and site amenities they feel are most important. The first public meeting was held in January. A second is set for Wednesday at the Santo Community Center.

Social-networking sites also are being used to gather votes on the water park's wish list. A Web site at www.medfordwaterpark.org has an online poll for ranking proposed features, and a Facebook page lists 2,000 fans, Ogden said. The majority of poll responders are currently females between the ages of 25 and 35.

"It's doing the trick," said Ogden. "It was really important to us to get the public's input."

A final presentation will be made to Medford City Council in May, Ogden said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.