Analysis: Medford water park couldn't break even

Revenue from a proposed Medford municipal water park would pay for between 48 percent and 78 percent of the cost of operations, construction and maintenance depending on the size of the project, according to an updated fiscal analysis released Thursday.

Medford-based REMI Northwest did a cost analysis of four variations of the water park, ranging in cost between $8.2 million and $15.65 million. The most expensive option includes a professional lap pool, long coveted by Southern Oregon's competitive swimmers.

The water park would be constructed at Bear Creek Park at the intersection of Highland Drive and Barnett Road. Revenue bonds likely would pay for construction costs up front.

Medford City Council members wanted the cost analysis to help them decide whether to build the water park and how large it should be. So far, the council hasn't made a decision.

Council members are expected to discuss options again at 6 p.m. July 13 at their annual council retreat at Veranda Park Retirement Living, 1641 Veranda Park Drive.

In September, the council asked Medford Parks & Recreation staff to come up with a plan for a water park that would pay for itself, including operations, debt from construction and maintenance. (City officials prefer to call the water park a "municipal aquatics facility" to avoid the connotation of a commercial venture.)

None of the four versions presented Thursday meets that goal, but one version would come close to being unsubsidized by tax dollars, said Brian Sjothun, Parks & Recreation director. Version 2 would include a slide pool, mat racer slides, a wave pool and a play structure for $11.8 million.

Revenue from that option would generate nearly 78 percent, or $1.1 million, of the annual cost of operations, construction debt and maintenance.

It's an upgrade from the more basic Version 1, which would include a slide pool and a play structure for $8.2 million. It would generate about $465,712 in revenue each year. That's about 48 percent of the $974,240 it would cost in operations, debt and maintenance.

Version 3 would cost $13.15 million to build and would include a wave pool, mat racer slides, a FlowRider, a slide pool, a spa pool, a children's pool and a play structure. Revenue would pay for nearly $1.1 million — about 70 percent — of the $1.5 million in operating, debt and maintenance costs.

A fourth version would include a professional lap pool, a slide pool, a play structure, a children's pool, a spa pool, a river pool and a wave pool.

There still are no plans for an indoor pool, which has been identified as a city need since 1979. However, the lap pool could be designed so that a cover could easily be added later, said architect Ken Ogden, who has been working on the project.

The revenue projections for each version were based on an estimate of how many visitors would come to the water park each year and on an average entrance fee between $4.05 and $4.49 per person.

The city could expect 114,965 to 241,171 visitors per year depending on which version the city selected, Sjothun said.

Although Medford's population is about 78,000, the water park would likely draw people from around Southern Oregon and Northern California, he said.

Medford is regional service center for about 450,000 people from Jackson, Josephine, Curry, Coos, Douglas and Klamath counties in Oregon and Del Norte and Siskiyou counties in California, said Bill Hoke, deputy city manager.

City Councilman Al Densmore said he would like to discuss with other council members July 13 whether to let voters decide if the city should build the water park and what should be done with the dilapidated and leaking Hawthorne and Jackson pools. Those two pools cost the city about $250,000 to operate annually, Sjothun said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail

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