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Medford sports and events complex is three years away

Plans for a new indoor aquatics facility in Medford with two pools and a massive events center will kick into high gear over the next few months.

If the complex project doesn’t encounter any big hiccups, said Rich Rosenthal, Medford parks director, “Probably the best-case scenario is that it will take three years before the doors open.”

Voters approved a hotel tax increase from 9% to 11% Tuesday, but now it’s time for the City Council to hash out other proposals to help pay for the $60 million sports complex, which would be built at Howard Memorial Sports Park, at the corner of Ross Lane and Rossanley Drive.

“The City Council hit the ball into the voters’ court, and the voters hit it right back into the City Council’s court,” Rosenthal said.

Next Thursday, the council will hold a study session to discuss other proposals to help pay for the sports center.

One of the proposals is to refinance existing bonds on U.S. Cellular Community Park to get a more favorable rate.

The council will also discuss making rental-car taxes mandatory citywide rather than just at the airport.

The most controversial proposal is raising the monthly park utility fee from the current $2.95 a month to $5.35, a $2.40-a-month increase.

Rosenthal said the council will likely discuss strategies to minimize the impact of the increase in the park utility fee.

Once the council decides how it wants to pay for the sports center, Rosenthal said it will be time to prepare architectural and engineering plans for the project.

The city will likely spend a year or longer dealing with land-use issues that are required before the project is ready for construction.

A traffic study will have to be completed, particularly to show the impacts on Rossanley Drive, which is state Highway 238.

Medford Public Works will also weigh in on traffic impacts along Ross Lane.

The city will be seeking a conditional use permit for the sports center, which will require public hearings.

Rosenthal said there is a seasonal creek that flows through the park, so there will be floodplain issues that have to be worked out with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Another potential challenge is how the current economic downturn might affect the city.

“The economic conditions may impact the timing of the facility development,” Rosenthal said.

Overall, the costs to operate the facility should be manageable.

“I am very confident that the cost projections for facility operation will not be a burden on the city’s general fund any more than the operations at Jackson Park right now,” Rosenthal said.

The city currently operates an aging pool next to Jackson Elementary.

Rosenthal said a state-of-the art sports center will generate revenues that will greatly offset the costs of operations.

City officials have estimated it would cost from $56.9 million to $60.7 million to build the project.

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 sports and events center would be inside an 89,559-square-foot building. The pools would be housed in separate buildings.

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

Rosenthal said that when the land-use issues are resolved and the park is shovel ready, it would take about a year-and-a-half to build the sports center.

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

artistic renderingNext Thursday, the Medford City Council will hold a study session to discuss{ } proposals to help pay for the sports and events center.