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Aquatics complex is off to the races

A planned $60 million aquatics complex with year-round pools in west Medford is about to see its first competition.

The city recently sent out a request for bids from firms that could prepare the architectural and engineering drawings for the project, which is to be built at Howard Memorial Sports Park, at Ross Lane and Rossanley Drive.

Rich Rosenthal, director of Medford Parks and Recreation, said he expected a number of companies to send in bids that should come in somewhere “north of $3 million.”

In September, Medford City Council will consider seeking the bond, which is essentially a loan, to pay for the project.

The bond would be paid off through a variety of revenue sources, including a lodging tax increase from 9% to 11%, approved by voters in May. The lodging tax would pay 21% of the bond.

An early payoff off another bond for U.S. Cellular Community Park will free up enough to cover 44% of the financing toward the sports complex.

A $2.40 increase to the parks utility fee would bring 31% of the project revenue.

The remaining 4% is expected to come from expanding car rental fees throughout the city instead of just at the Medford airport.

By late winter or early spring, the city hopes to have a contractor lined up.

The contractor, the city and the design team will work together to develop the plans for the project.

In 2021, earth-moving equipment should be preparing the site so that construction of the buildings could start in 2022.

“I hope, if everything goes well, that we should be finished by the latter half of 2023,” said Rich Rosenthal.

Without any major hiccups, the sports complex could open as early as April 2023, he said.

Before work can begin, a traffic study will have to be completed, particularly to analyze the impacts on Ross and Rossanley.

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

Rosenthal said a creek flows through a portion of what will be the 89,559-square-foot sports center building. As a result, floodplain issues will have to be worked out with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The proposal calls for a recreational pool with 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 1960s-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.

City officials hope the new pools and events center will become 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.

The city of Medford hopes to open a new $60 million aquatics center in 2023. Rendering by ORW Architecture