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Medford voters back sports and events complex

Medford voters appeared to have given the green light to two hotel tax measures Tuesday night that would help pay for a $60 million pool and event complex at Howard Memorial Park.

Measure 15-188 changes the city charter to increase the lodging tax from 9% to 11%.

In early returns from Jackson County posted just after 8 p.m. Tuesday, Measure 15-188 had 10,158 yes votes and 8,893 no votes, or 53% in favor and 47% opposing.

Another measure, 15-187, closes a loophole in the city’s ordinance to capture hotel taxes from vacation rentals such as Airbnb.

Measure 15-187 was ahead 10,973 to 8,054, or 58% to 42%.

“I am cautiously optimistic and am awaiting more results,” said Kevin Stine, Medford City Council president.

He said Measure 15-187 appeared to have passed, but he said it’s still premature to call a win for 15-188, the lodging tax increase.

“There has to be a very strong last-minute no vote to overturn 1,300 votes,” he said.

If the measures ultimately are approved, Stine said the council will likely begin pushing forward with developing plans for the new sports complex in the coming weeks.

The higher hotel taxes would generate just under $13 million of the amount needed to pay for the facility over a 30-year period.

Along with the hotel taxes, the city will use a combination of expanded car rental fees and an almost doubling of the park utility fee from the current $2.95 a month to $5.35, a $2.40-a-month increase. The council hasn’t approved a car rental fee or utility fee increases, though most councilors have expressed support for the idea.

The city plans to build two indoor pools and an 89,559-square-foot event and recreation facility at the park, situated at the corner of Ross Lane and Rossanley Drive.

The sports complex is designed to allow multiple events to take place simultaneously.

With 400 parking spaces and other outdoor areas, the entire project would cover 23 acres of the 58-acre park.

Eccentric millionaire Wes Howard died in 2003 and bequeathed his estate to help local children.

Councilor Tim D’Alessandro said the voter margins looked like a win.

“I’m really happy with this,” he said. “It fulfills the wishes of Wes Howard.”

New pools and an event center are two things this region has lacked for some time, D’Alessandro said.

City officials have estimated it would cost from $56.9 million to $60.7 million to build the project, which could open by late 2022 or early 2023 if the funding is lined up by June.

The proposal calls for a recreational pool that would have a shallow entry for young children as well as an artificial river and a vortex. On one side would be a three-lane, 25-yard lap pool. Nearby would be two tubular slides, one 164 feet long, the other 176 feet long, and an outdoor splash pad similar in size to the one at Hawthorne Park.

To attract regional swim meets, water polo competitions and other events, a 13-lane competition pool would be built inside an adjacent building. Lockers and other facilities would be constructed next to the pools, and a food truck court would be installed next to the building.

The buildings would have roll-up doors that could be opened during fair weather.

City officials want to build new pools to replace the 1960-era Jackson Pool and the former Hawthorne Park Pool, which was closed in 2010 and then demolished. Parks maintenance workers continue to keep Jackson Pool operational despite its age.

The hope is the new pools would be a regional draw, much like U.S. Cellular Community Park in south Medford.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Medford voters approved two measures Tuesday that would help fund a $60 million sports and events complex at Wes Howard Memorial Park.