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Sports complex faces supply crunch

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

A supply chain crunch has prompted Medford City Council to approve ordering the structural steel needed for its new $60 million aquatics complex before the design is completed.

Pence Construction of Bend has told the city that in order to get Rogue Credit Union Community Complex built by August 2023, the steel needs to be ordered by August.

The council Thursday unanimously approved going out to bid the pre-engineered steel to build the events center with two indoor pools at Wes Howard Memorial Park in west Medford

If the steel isn’t ordered soon, Pence warned it could delay completion of the project by up to six months.

Pence has completed other recent projects by buying steel in advance, including for Oregon State University and the Oregon Treasury Department.

Rich Rosenthal, director of Medford Parks and Recreation, said the council also approved building the natatorium, the building used to house the pools, with concrete blocks instead of steel.

Rosenthal said the design of the sports complex is about 80% complete and well enough along to have confidence in ordering the materials at this early stage.

“The market conditions are shaping the strategy in how we are constructing the building,” he said.

The construction industry has been hard hit by escalating prices and limited supply recently, affecting both materials and labor.

“We don’t have the luxury of sitting down and waiting,” Rosenthal said.

Pence Construction, which is the construction manager and general contractor for the project, can now get the bids for key portions of the massive aquatics complex, Rosenthal said.

Cory Loomis, senior project manager with Pence Construction, said his company’s role as a partner with the city in building the sports complex is to find ways to get the project delivered on time despite changes in market conditions.

“We help them navigate these exact scenarios,” he said.

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

City officials have estimated it would cost from $56.9 million to $60.7 million to build the project, which could open in 2023.

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 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.

The bond to pay for the complex would be paid off through a variety of revenue sources.

An early payoff off a 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 lodging tax will pay an estimated 21% of the bond.

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

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.