News and Tribune

January 7, 2014

New Albany aquatic center gets zoning approval

Project receives special exception; TIF-backed financing in place

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — All that’s left to do now is build it.

The New Albany Board of Zoning Appeals approved by a 4-1 vote Tuesday a special exception to allow an outdoor aquatic center to be constructed at the former Camille Wright pool site, 224 W. Daisy Lane.

Though the property housed an active pool until Camille Wright was closed in 2008, the board required the special exception to the scope of the project which will include the demolition of three houses off Daisy Lane.

Once completed, the city will have about a 10-acre joint site consisting of an aquatic center and a new fire station, which was previously approved by the board.

It’s estimated to cost about $9 million to construct the facility, as the project is being footed through a bond that will be repaid with tax-increment financing revenue.

But the lone board member who voted against the special exception said he was concerned about the expense of the aquatic center.

“I do have concerns with the feasibility of it,” BZA member Jameson Bledsoe said.

The bond will be repaid with TIF proceeds; however, it is backed up with property tax revenue, which means the General Fund would be cut to repay the loan if TIF funds couldn’t cover it.

David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment, said such a negative scenario is highly unlikely.

The financing was approved because banks have confidence in the city, he added.

“Obviously we have the ability [to pay off the debt] or we wouldn’t be able to sell the bonds,” he said.

The total bond will be worth up to $19.6 million, and the remaining money is being used to build a multiuse recreational center and to upgrade Cannon Acres and Binford Park.

Bledsoe also questioned whether the aquatic center — which is slated to open in 2015 — would be able to support itself.

When the New Albany City Council voted to proceed with the project, it was presented with some financial estimates from The Estopinal Group, which is the lead design firm for the aquatic center.

The annual operating budget for the aquatic center was estimated to be $706,610 based on staffing, utilities and maintenance expenses for a 153-day season.

The Estopinal Group estimated the aquatic center would generate $932,512 annually. The formula estimated daily passes for Floyd County residents would cost $10, and that almost 41,000 of those passes would be sold each year.

Concession sales would account for $153,000 annually, according to the estimates.

Duggins said Tuesday that pass rates and a final operational budget for the aquatic center are being prepared.

The Estopinal Group estimated the city would still turn a profit if it limited the aquatic center season to 94 days, and it’s likely the pool will be open daily during June, July and August but only on weekends during May and September.

Though Camille Wright pool ultimately failed, Duggins said the administration is confident that the aquatic center will be a success because its features are more in line with what swimmers now want.

Families are looking for recreational fun, for the most part, instead of looking for a deeper pool for competitive swimming, Duggins said.

As designed, the aquatic center would include a zero entry pool, splash pads and a lazy river.

The project will also transform a blighted and closed pool into a viable project, Duggins added.

“We’re going to make it into a beautiful facility by redeveloping that parcel,” he said.

A few residents attended the meeting and cited concerns about traffic congestion on Daisy Lane.

The plan changed slightly in recent months so that the entrance to the aquatic center will align with Coyle Drive.

Though there are no plans to add a four-way stop at the intersection, the city may address that portion of Daisy Lane when it completes its traffic signal looping project for State Street, officials said.

Drainage features have also been added to the project design including a rain garden and a dry detention facility.

The next major step will be finalizing bid documents so the city can accept construction proposals for the aquatic center.