Georgetown’s proposed city-school district aquatic center could add facilities, cost millions

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A proposed aquatic center built in partnership between the city of Georgetown and Georgetown ISD could add competition-level pools and a host of amenities to existing facilities at the Georgetown Recreation Center in San Gabriel Park, according to a feasibility study presented Tuesday to Georgetown City Council.

However, to build such a facility could require more than $22.3 million and cost up to $376,000 annually to maintain, according to Keith Hayes, a principal with Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture, the firm selected to undertake the study for the proposed aquatic center, also known as a natatorium.

Hayes presented City Council with two options: a 27,000-square-foot facility with a 25-meter-by-25-yard indoor pool that would cost between $24.5 million and $28 million to build, and a 14,500-square-foot alternative with a 50-meter-by-25-yard outdoor pool with an estimated development cost of between $22.3 million and $24.8 million.

The joint feasibility study between the city and GISD was approved by council and the district’s board of trustees in early 2017. The city and district split the study’s $40,000 cost.

“This study was intended to be an exploration process, and that’s what we did,” said Georgetown City Manager David Morgan said to the council after Tuesday’s presentation. “This is very high level. While it looks like there’s some detail in the designs, there’s a lot of flexibility.”

District 4 Council Member Steve Fought said he likes the idea of the city and the school district working together to develop a project that could benefit both. But he would first like to see more details, particularly in how the building and operation costs would be shared.

“That’s going to be very important moving forward,” Fought said.

According to Hayes, the annual operating cost of the facility could vary between $300,000 and $376,000, depending on which option for the center’s design is favored by the council and the district.

Both options include a variety of amenities, including new bathrooms, locker rooms, spectator areas and even plans for a water slide and leisure pool.

Council Member Rachael Jonrowe, who represents Georgetown’s District 6, said the operating costs might be too expensive to be feasible. She also raised concern over the expense and city staff burden of continuing to study the potential project.

Moving forward with the study and project details would likely overburden city parks staff, which is already handling several expensive projects such as the new Garey Park, said District 7 Council Member Tommy Gonzalez.

Morgan said the city and the school district have not set an agreement on how to pay for the facility. He said that “early assumptions” regarding a partnership would have the city handle annual operating costs while the school district would cover capital costs to build the project, which would likely require voter approval of a bond election.

“That would likely be the starting point,” he said.

Morgan said the school district’s board of trustees would need to weigh in on the study before the process moves forward.

The matter is expected to return to council members in January for further consideration.

More information from Tuesday’s presentation is available on the city’s website.

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Evan Marczynski is the Georgetown editor for Community Impact Newspaper, where he covers city government, local business and other news. Evan spent five years working for newspapers in the Pacific Northwest before joining Community Impact in August 2016. He is originally from Washington state.

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