The Chillicothe City Council decided to move forward with their plans to build a new waterpark structure at the locale of the existing Chillicothe Aquatics Center on Monday night, and to up the cost of the project from $2.5 million to $4.2 million.
Councilman Wayne Cunningham was notably absent from the meeting. It was mentioned in passing that he was attending the State Fair, and Mayor Chuck Haney excused his absence.
City Administrator Ike Holland took the floor first, to explain the price spike.
"A month ago, we had two projections given to us," he said.
One of these was for a $2.5 million project, which included the phasing-in of a remodel done to the current bathhouse structure and the inclusion of themeing items at a later date, and the other was for $3.7 million, which included such during initial construction. The former was chosen at that time.
"Subsequently, after that meeting, I was approached by Councilman [David] Moore, who expressed concern [with the phase-in]," Holland stated. "A lot of times, when phase-ins happen, they never get done."
Councilmen Reed Dupy and Tom Douglas also expressed the same concerns, Holland stated, and said that they wished for a complete facility in cost.
"Tonight, the proposal is for a $4 million project," Holland said.
Construction costs for the waterpark project are split into three categories: Base — L.R. Addition ($1,680,000), Existing Pool Modifications ($1,575,000), and Alternatives ($313,500 — this, it was later explained, is made up of a large family slide and an open flume slide, both of which could be excluded from the final project if costs ran too high for the city). These totals come to $3,569,100 when added together, and hold a seven percent contingency (provisions set aside for a future event or circumstance that is possible, but cannot be predicted with certainty). Survey costs for the project round out to $5,300, geotechnical costs are expected to be $9,500, and the design professional fee (approximately 9.6 percent) comes to $342,634. The owner's allowance is $100,000. Added together, that total comes to $4,026,534.
As it is currently listed, the bathhouse/concessions area has an existing pool modification cost of $176,400.
Michael Fisher — the project manager for the new waterpark — took to the open podium to present a slideshow of the features Water's Edge Aquatic Design plans to install within the new structure, which was revealed as "Chilli Bay Aquatic Center."
"We're expanding basically by 50 percent," Fisher said.
He pulled up a slide on the council chambers' east and west television sets, showing the new entranceway concept for the park to the audience and council. Where currently the entrance splits from the check-in/payment counter/lifeguard station into a male changing room on the left and a female changing room off right, the middle station will be torn out and persons will pass through a vaulted center archway with crossed center slats, held up by pillars down each side, into the park itself, and will then enter the changing rooms from inside the park, on the back side.
Page 2 of 5 - "It makes admission a lot easier," Holland said. "Now you go right through, then you can go to the changing area." He explained that it also helps with parents who have a small child of a different sex coming to the park with them, who will now be able to enter with them, instead of going around on their own.
"Now, concessions would be on the north side," Holland continued. They are currently to the south of the bathhouse, which will become a lifeguard rest area.
"It allows parents to be towards the shallow end of the pool," Fisher said, noting that the zero-depth wading pool will retain its pool locale, with some minor modifications, including a rounded edging. The wading pool will also include a spray zone, water benches under a sunshade, and a water play structure (which resembles a colorful jungle-gym, of sorts). The zero-depth pool will wade into a shallow play pool. On the eastern side of the shallow pool comes the first of the alternative items — a family slide. The family slide stands about five feet high, and would be about eight feet wide. It is purposefully oversized — a slide for those with children under 48 inches tall, where more than one person may slide down at a time. The wading pool will cover 2,807 square feet. To the far north (and with one off in the upper north-western corner) there will be four party cabanas.
"The open flume is another alternative feature," Fisher said. It is one of the pair of slides in the new "two slides" area — the one with the top exposed to the sky. Either of these options (the family or open flume slide) is open for bidding out of the project. The two-slide area will be slightly further south than its current location, but will still remain on the east side of the shallow pool. The 552 square-foot plunge area, where slide-goers empty out, will be turned 90 degrees clockwise, and fits in an area between the entrance of the family slide and the diving area. The second slide in the area will mimic the current pool's blue slide, as an enclosed-body, semi-speed shute.
"You'll still have a one-meter and three-meter [diving] board," Fisher said. Those, as mentioned before, will be south of the plunge area. The diving area will cover 1,905 square feet. A climbing wall will be placed above the further-most south pool wall, adjacent with the diving boards, but within the same pool.
"[It will be] see-through, we're thinking," Fisher said. It will stand 15 feet high.
Just west of the climbing wall will be a log-roll feature — a long, padded cylinder that spins on its axis as it is walked upon. North of that, a volleyball net and basketball goal will fill out the deeper pool. There appears to be an intermediate-depth area just for swimming on the southwest portion of this pool. It is labeled current as a "future floatable" area. Together, this sporting zone will cover 3,509 square feet.
Page 3 of 5 - Another large addition to the park will be just east of the current filter/chemical building, and down a pair of deck steps (or ADA accessible ramps, which are up on the northern side). In a section all unto itself, a large figure-eight open raft water slide will empty into a 225-foot, ovalescent lazy river. Holland said that this area could be used for morning "senior walks," as well, with exercise coming from citizens walking against the current of the river's flow. It would be an alternative way to generate revenue, he stated.
All-in-all, the open raft plunge area and the lazy river amount to 3,578 square feet of water space.
The total water surface area for Chilli Bay will come to 12,351 square feet. Grass deck areas will be prevalent within the design, mainly on the northern edge of the park, and in spots to the west and on the south, near the first set of deck stairs.
"I know that this is happening awful fast," said Councilman Moore. "I believe we should make sure we have all of our ducks in a row. I wouldn't be against putting it off for a year, if it will help our financial situation.
"I'd rather tell [the citizens], 'Hey, we're going to spend $4 million, but we're going to do it right.'"
Chillicothe Parks Director Josh Norris stated that putting such off could incur additional charges for the city. He stated that the current pool needed painting, that changes needed to be made to the chemical room, that $13,000 aquatic diving board mats would need to be purchased, that the pool's filters would need to be replaced, and that they would have to update their facilities to meet recent ADA requirements (including the installation of an accessible lift, which would need to be in place by July 1, 2013) — all of this, for just one year of use, before demolition the coming year.
Councilman Douglas asked if Norris believed that the cost of these changes would be in close to the $100,000 he was roughly estimating in his head.
"I'd say that'd probably be close," Norris said.
"If you'll notice," he added, referencing a handout he provided to the council, "for the past three years, [the Center is] at a $30,000 loss."
As an example, in 2011, attendance at the Chillicothe Aquatics Center was 18,200 head. Expenses that year came to $95,000. Revenue generated was $65,000. This excludes concessions.
It is expected that to maintain Chilli Bay, it would cost $188,945. Total revenue generated by the park is expected to come out somewhere close to $190,300.
"Personnel costs are what we consider our largest expenses," Norris said. It is estimated that $127,778 would be spent on personnel for the new park (14-17 lifeguards), $3,080 on utilities, $2,002 on filling the pool, $14,526 on electrical, $28,035 on water treatment, and $13,525 on general supplies.
Page 4 of 5 - For seasonal passes, prices are estimated to be as follows: $170 per family, $80 per individual, and $55 per punch pass. It is expected that $37,700 will be generated from these.
Daily passes would cost $4.50 for youth, $5.50 for adults, and $3.00 for seniors. Estimates have this being the biggest money-maker, at $96,900 per season.
Pool rental would be $200. Chilli Bay hopes to make $10,000 per season on this. They also anticipate $35,700 in concessions (at a 20 percent profit rate), as well as $10,000 in lessons/classes.
Councilwoman Pam Jarding questioned Norris on a chart he had provided them, regarding other communities with waterparks, and how their parks were able to generate revenue. Her qualm came with the size of several of the Iowa communities included in the chart, including the college town of Ames (59,042 persons, as of July 2011), and how a city of that size would be better able to generate revenue with its increased number of citizens, as opposed to Chillicothe (9,444 persons, July 2011), thus nulling the comparison between the two.
"Those communities are a lot larger and able to garner a lot more revenue," she said.
Fisher stepped in at this time to say that the chart was provided by Water's Edge, and that they had requested these numbers from a large number of waterparks in the region, but that what was provided was all that they had received back from their request.
Jarding said that she appreciated their honesty in the situation.
"Somebody stated earlier that we 'need' this waterpark," Jarding said. "Do we need it, or do we just want it?"
Community-member Eric Turner took the podium to address this.
"My seven-year-old spends a lot of time at the pool for therapeutic reasons," he said. "It's not something we want. It's something we need.
"Everything we've done in this city over the last 40 years has been first class."
It was added to Holland's earlier idea for the senior walk that contracting through vendors for the concessions area and hosting late night swims would be another way to genearate revenue for the waterpark.
"Some communities are gung-ho on making money," Norris said. "We plan to be very aggressive. It is possible to cover your losses."
Councilman Douglas pointed out that when the city's capital improvement fund was initially voted into place by the citizens of Chillicothe, it was for use in improving Danner Park and the Aquatics Center. Later, it was reluctantly voted for use on the golf course, as well, he said.
"Now, I think we need to take it back to the pool," he said. "Let's take it back to what the majority wants. Let's make a waterpark."
"How long do we want to continue to make little improvements?" asked Janice Shaffer, of the Parks and Recreations board, as well as the Aquatics Center committee. "We are a forward-thinking group. We are a 'hub city.' I just hope that this money doesn't go down the — pardon the pun — Aquatic Center drain."
Page 5 of 5 - City Auditor Theresa Kelly submitted a report that she admitted was very rough, regarding the figures in the city's capital improvement funds, because she was not given a solid number to work with. She noted that, as is, they would be drawing their funds down into the $100,000 range, which she considered very low, by paying for the project.
"That's making it pretty low," she said.
"One of the reasons that's low is because [we're paying off the bowling alley]," said Councilman Moore. He stated that once payments on that entity ceased, the total in the fund would likely increase.
"You can't always see the future," said Holland. "Drawing it down to $100,000 — that's at the council's discretion."
"The financing's the least of the problems, I can tell you that," said city Attorney Robert Cowherd.
Holland noted that if the council waited until after tonight to make their decision on the waterpark's construction, they would "lose all of next season," and, thus, be forced to upkeep the current pool for another year. If approval were granted, he, Norris, and Water's Edge corroborated, demolition of the current Aquatics Center would begin this fall, and construction of Chilli Bay would begin in spring of 2013.
Councilman Douglas motioned that the city move forward in the waterpark construction process. Councilman Dupy seconded. The measure was put to a roll-call vote, passing by a 4-0 margin.
It was next motioned to up the financing of the park from the initial figure ($2.5 million) to $4.2 million (as Cowherd noted, the number can be decreased, but it cannot be increased after passage, so the council decided upon the higher number for some wiggle room). When put to a roll-call vote, this also passed, 4-0.