Council commits $4.5 million for new YMCA pool facilityMayor stresses entire community will be able to use aquatics center, not just members of the Y
By: Ryan McGaughey, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The City of Worthington will be a significant player in a new Worthington YMCA indoor/outdoor pool facility, the Worthington City Council decided Wednesday morning.
Council members voted 5-0 during a special 6:30 a.m. meeting to allocate approximately $4.5 million for a city-owned aquatics center, which would be part of the planned new YMCA on the Minnesota West Community and Technical College campus. The total includes about $4.35 million, plus half of what remains in an escrow account for repairs to the city’s current outdoor pool.
The YMCA will pay the city $1 per year over 20 years in a lease agreement to be worked out by City Attorney Mark Shepherd and City Administrator Joe Parker.
The city council also put numerous stipulations in the agreement. Among them: Council members will receive voting rights on a committee that will work toward developing a significant outdoor pool component, as well as final approval on both the outdoor and indoor pools.
The city will also have first interest on the pool facility should the YMCA not be able to continue its operation. Additionally, the city asked for obtaining right of way off Crailsheim Drive for the possible development of pool access from that street at a later date.
Alderman Mike Kuhle explained following Wednesday’s special meeting the advantages of the council’s decision.
“The city had already committed approximately $3 million in an agreement signed a couple of years ago to the pool project with the YMCA,” Kuhle said. “We had no ownership and some input on the design.
“Now, with the city paying $4.5 million … we have ownership,” Kuhle continued. “We have the final say on design. We lease the pool to the YMCA, and the taxpayer gets out from under operational costs going forward. We are not subsidizing any other portion of the YMCA, and the YMCA will have to operate the pool out of their pocket, not the taxpayer.”
Gordon Moore, president of the Worthington Area YMCA Board of Directors, said the board and the Y were pleased with the council’s action. Moore said it’s important for people to realize what the city’s decision means.
“They’re not just giving the Y $4.5 million,” Moore said. “The city is building an aquatics center … and if the city wants the Y to manage their pool, it makes logistical sense to have that located where the Y will be.”
Moore noted the aquatics center’s outdoor component encompassed a significant portion of the meeting’s discussion.
“People want to have a meaningful outdoor experience,” Moore said. “Even if it’s only a 75- to 80-day season, that’s still important. The plan is to have the aquatics people presenting some scenarios to the city. The indoor part of it, I’d like to think, is well on its way to being finalized, but the city is going to have final say over that, too.”
Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh believes the city’s construction of an aquatics center satisfies what a majority of the community wants.
“We are telling the Y that this community wants more than just an indoor swimming pool,” Oberloh said. “The community wants an outdoor amenity that will be more than just a garden hose in a plastic tub.
“The Y’s aquatics guy has said it costs as much to put in splash components and wading pools as much as regular pools,” he added. “We have kind of come to a belief that there are more people requesting a pool that you can actually swim in outdoors.”
Oberloh said the pool will be “triple net” leased back to the Y.
“By us completely funding an aquatics component … we’re saying, ‘We’re telling you to pay us $1, and you run it,’” Oberloh said. “Right now, we’re putting away about $150,000 in an outdoor pool account, and that money has been part of our budget for several years … as well as $50,000 in an escrow account for major repairs in most years. With this agreement, we would borrow against the proceeds of the hospital sale and pay ourselves back $247,000 a year over 20 years.”
Oberloh added it wasn’t yet determined where the additional $47,000 would come from each year for aquatics center budgeting.
“We have been working on this with the Y on and off for 10 years,” the mayor stated. “We just have decided that the community needs it, that’s a given. Do we need an outdoor pool? Yes, the pool has been major band-aided for the last three years. By doing this, we allow 360-plus days, lacking Christmas and New Year’s, that people will be able to swim in this community.”
Oberloh also stressed that the entire community — not just Y members — will be able to utilize the aquatics center. That — and working partnerships to a maximum potential — are keys to the agreement, Moore said.
“From the Y’s perspective, we need to get this project going,” Moore admitted. “We’re being told by the people who do this for a living, if you’re going to get this project off the ground, now is the time to get it going.”
“This issue has been extremely paralyzing on the city and the community as whole for the last few years,” Kuhle said. “It is time to put some closure on this and move forward. This will be good for economic development and the citizens of Worthington.”