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Rogue X won’t cost residents more thanks to smart moves

It sounds shocking at first that the cost of the event center and aquatics complex at Howard Memorial Sports Park has ballooned by 25% from original estimates. But it’s not a surprise. Neither is it a boondoggle, despite the sniping of some critics.

Construction costs — from materials to labor — have shot up for every kind of project during the pandemic, not just public ones. City officials have kept close tabs on the ambitious plans for a sprawling events center with two indoor swimming pools and a two splash pads, and they have made some savvy moves to keep the project on track.

Since June 2020, the cost of materials alone has soared by $7.3 million, according to the general contractor, Pence Construction. Pence has guaranteed a maximum price for the construction phase of $66,712,536. In October, the city approved spending $6 million to order 400 tons of steel to beat expected price increases by buying early.

On top of that, the city was able to secure a lower-interest loan, saving $29 million over the 30 years of the bond financing. And the project secured $3.5 million in grant funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

As a result of those smart decisions, the city will not ask city residents for any additional taxes, fees or other charges, and the project will not have to be scaled back. The only change has been reducing the size of the parking lot, but the adjacent Logos Public Charter School has agreed to allow use of its parking at times.

Engineering changes saved enough costs to avoid cutting the outdoor splash pad from the project.

That’s good news for Medford residents who voted to approve increasing the city’s lodging tax to build the complex. When it’s finished in September of 2023, the facility will boast a 13-lane competition pool, two water slides and a 90,000-square-foot indoor recreation and event facility for everything from basketball tournaments to concerts.

The total cost of more than $75 million is a great deal of money. But City Manager Brian Sjothun points out that, if the city had to buy the land for the project, the cost would be $100 million.

Thanks to Wes Howard, who bequeathed the property on which his house stood to the city to benefit local youth sports, the support of Medford residents and the Rogue Credit Union, above-ground construction of the Rogue Community Credit Union Community Complex, now known as Rogue X for short, is set to begin this spring. And that’s not the end of the story for the property.

The Rogue X will take up less than half of Howard Memorial Park, which covers 58 acres. The rest could include more ballfields for use by the public and the Medford School District.

This project has been a long time coming, and will provide residents with much-needed water recreation opportunities and much more. City officials deserve credit for managing the details through the challenges of a pandemic.