Deer Park City Council Entertains Possibility of New Community & Rec Center
Feature Illustration (above) are concepts of the uses that could be incorporated into Deer Park’s proposed recreation center. Source: Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects.
by Eileen Pace
Deer Park (Harris County) — City Council members, having discussed a need for a new community and recreation center, recently scheduled an election for May 2 to let voters decide on extending a ½-cent sales tax to help fund its construction.
The council, along with members of the Community Development Corporation and the Parks and Recreation Commission saw concept plans and heard an operations proposal at a joint meeting on January 13, 2020.
Stephen Springs of Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects presented a concept drawing that shows a community center built on the grounds of the old city hall building, just adjacent to the current city hall. Springs said they are designing the community center and the recreation center together.
Design is expected to take about 13 months, after which another two months is allocated for getting bids. Depending on the election result, schematics could begin this June and design development could take place between September and the end of the year, according to the projected project schedule presented to the joint committees.
Construction documents could be completed by April 2021 and construction could begin around September 2021.
“First, the community center would be built,” Springs said. “That’s in Phase 1 and would take about 12 months. After that, Phase 2 and building of the rec center could begin.”
Abatement and demolition plus construction of the recreation center would then take about 17 months.
“In this methodology, some operational capacity can be maintained during Phase 2 construction,” Springs said.
“I want to tee it up for you,” Svetz said, “ and give a general overview of ‘how do you operate this facility’ and parameters to understand as time goes on.”
Map of Deep Park’s municipal complex. The proposed recreation center is upper left, highlighted in red. Source: City of Deer Park.
The community center is designed as a program facility, such as for meetings, classes and rentals for events.
Svetz said, “Talking about the price tag isn’t enough – nothing you build lasts forever.
“There is an operational cost – and later a system replacement cost, like HVAC, elevators or whatever. These things should be contemplated and planned for so costs 10, 15 or 20 years down the road are planned for.”
Svetz presented operational comparisons from city-run facilities in similar size cities around the state. Most offer basketball and volleyball courts, weights and fitness equipment and locker rooms, but amenities such as saunas, racquetball courts and gymnastics are harder to find.
Svetz told the council they have many other decisions to make before embarking on the design of the project, including membership rates and guest fees and hours of operation, and types of fitness equipment and recreational programs.
The city is hoping to reduce its subsidy by some $900 thousand a year by using memberships, passes and guest fees to increase cost recovery above the 19 percent it now realizes.
Svetz prepared a recreation center pro forma which shows a plan that could bring the city a 48 percent cost recovery in the first year, increasing by one percent a year to 53 percent in year six.
But the pro forma for the two centers combined projects a cost recovery of up to 89 percent.
Svetz’s plan projected a general fund subsidy required for the first year of full operations at $174,407.
Springs told the group that the numbers are just a starting point to begin planning the operation of the rec center.
“There’s plenty of time while we go through the design and construction phases to discuss, create different scenarios – plenty of time to refine membership fees, costs for labor, etc. before opening,” he said.
The city has not yet scheduled a public hearing for the proposed centers but is planning an extensive community education campaign.
“We will give residents a chance to come out and see the pictures and the plans. We’re planning a joint meeting also with the school district plus any group that wants information – sports leagues and neighborhood groups.
“Also out of $37-million projected, about 70% of the money – about $26 million – will be funded by people who don’t live in Deer Park, which is a great benefit.
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