Some small city mayors noted their concerns about Sen. Hawkins' proposed Regional Aquatic Center possibly competing against their local swimming pools during a stakeholder meeting Wednesday.

On Dec. 7, Sen. Hawkins told local legislators that this would be the last meeting he would be leading before heading to Olympia for the 2023 legislative session starting January.

An 11-person steering committee will begin heralding the Regional Aquatic Center project in Sen. Hawkins’ absence. 

The steering committee will include one representative from the following governing entities: Chelan County, Douglas County, City of East Wenatchee, City of Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Rock Island, and Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority.

The Steering Committee will also include representatives from the Hispanic Business Council, the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce, along with a Swimming Club Advocate and a Sports Complex Advocate.

East Wenatchee Mayor Jerrilea Crawford was chosen as chair for the new steering committee.

The steering committee’s first task would be to start work on the $300k feasibility study, hoping to find a consultant by early 2023.

The study would include research on existing public and private pools within the region, studying local demographics, conduct a market analysis, compile public input from both the steering committee, focus groups, and public interest surveys, and a site analysis for the Wenatchi Landing area.

The 283-acre Wenatchi Landing area is located near the Odabashian Bridge and Sunset Highway in East Wenatchee. 

The study would also compare the economic returns on either a combined sports complex and aquatic center, a year-round aquatic center, or an outdoor aquatic center.

Hawkins reiterated his wish for an indoor olympic-sized pool to be a sort of “catalyst” for more economic development at Wenatchi Landing, including future hotel and restaurant developments.

Crawford suggested splitting the study into two phases, noting the difficulty of doing a site analysis without confirming the final look of the facility.

Funding for the study was split between $100,000 from the Public Facilities District, $50,000 each from Chelan and Douglas County, $40,000 from the City of Wenatchee, and $30,000 each from the City of East Wenatchee and the Port Authority.

Chelan County Commissioners were initially hesitant about potentially funding more than their $50,000 share, but came to a conclusion to confirm their share of the study cost during their Nov. 28th meeting.

Douglas County, the City of Wenatchee, the City of East Wenatchee, and the Port Authority will vote on confirming their share of the study cost in early January.

Regarding funding for the center itself, Sen. Hawkins updated the stakeholders on where they are at with the Public Facilities District bill, which would look into defining the aquatic center as its own district in order to get the full two-tenths of one-percent sales tax.

Currently Chelan County already draws one-tenth of one-percent in sales tax money towards the Town Toyota Center. The Chelan-Douglas county region can only take a total of two-tenths of one percent for all projects.

If the Regional Aquatic Center can be redefined as its own district, then they would be able to draw the full two-tenths of the one percent of sales tax, which would bring in approximately $10-$12 million a year in sales tax revenue.

“If ultimately someday years from now we get to the point where this goes to voters and there's a modest sales tax increase presented as the two counties, two cities, and maybe communities are part of it, then this may be the only city/county dollars that actually would need to go to this facility,” Hawkins said.

Cashmere Mayor Jim Fletcher asked as to how this project would benefit smaller cities, and how Cashmere residents could benefit from an aquatic center located in East Wenatchee.

Hawkins said smaller cities could still benefit from this, whether it be more job opportunities, or the sales tax revenue could help pay a portion of repair costs for Cashmere’s city pool.

Chelan Mayor Bob Goedde voiced his own concerns on how this center will impact the City of Chelan.

“I believe this pool will be in direct competition with our facilit[ies] in Chelan,” Goedde said. “We are the Aquatic Center of Central Washington.”

Goedde said he would only be on board if the revenue derived from the site would go back to fund one of Chelan’s water facilities.

Leavenworth City Administrator Matthew Selby said the City of Leavenworth is already conducting their own feasibility study on a new indoor swimming pool. 

The City of Leavenworth would be replacing their existing pool and also create their own Public Facilities District.

“What I'm hearing [from] Leavenworth residents is that they want an indoor pool in Leavenworth,” Selby explained. “They don't want to be commuting 30 minutes to an indoor facility in East Wenatchee.”

East Wenatchee Mayor Jerrilea Crawford suggested that all stakeholders wait until they receive more information on how the center would economically impact their cities before reaching a final decision.

“It takes forever to get these types of projects done,” Crawford said. “We're not talking this year, or next year, or the year after. This is several [or] five years down the road before things like this really get a lot of teeth behind them, but you have to do the homework now.”

Steering Committee representatives will also need to email Crawford by the end of the first week of January.

The next stakeholder meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18.

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